President Barack Obama’s top auto adviser Steve Rattner is returning to private life now that General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC have emerged from bankruptcy faster than most experts thought possible.
Rattner, a former Wall Street financier worth more than $180 million, is stepping down after nearly five months in Washington overseeing the restructurings of the two automakers.
He will be succeeded by Ron Bloom, a former adviser to the United Steelworkers union who worked with the White House auto task force alongside Rattner counseling U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
“Ron Bloom will assume leadership of the task force’s activities as the government transitions its role away from day-to-day restructuring to monitoring this vital industry and protecting the substantial investment the American taxpayers have made in GM, Chrysler and GMAC,” Geithner said in a statement.
“We are extremely grateful to Steve for his efforts in helping to strengthen GM and Chrysler, recapitalize GMAC and support the American auto industry. I hope that he takes another opportunity to bring his unique skills to government service in the future.”
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, said Rattner “has done a very good job, and he made a significant contribution to a brighter future for the auto industry.”
Rattner played a key role in helping to achieve what the administration termed “quick-rinse” bankruptcies. Both automakers sold their best assets to new entities that emerged from bankruptcy much faster than most industry and legal experts expected.
“Rattner’s job was kind of to twist arms and get this thing through bankruptcy,” said Stephen Spivey, a senior San Antonio-based auto analyst with consulting firm Frost & Sullivan.
On March 27, when former GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner was in Washington, Rattner took him aside and told him the president and Treasury Department wanted him to step down. GM President Fritz Henderson was installed as the new CEO.
The Treasury Department, which holds a 60.8 percent stake in the new General Motors Co., appointed former AT&T Inc. Chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. chairman of the GM board overseeing management.
At a news conference Friday, Henderson said management expected to deal less frequently now with the task force.
On Monday, Henderson said Rattner’s “expertise was a key contributor toward a new GM emerging in record time. His leadership of the auto task force helped support our making the difficult commercial decisions that are necessary to re-invent GM.”
The U.S. government has extended more than $80 billion in emergency loans to GM, Chrysler and their financing arms and has exchanged more than half of that debt for stock and warrants in the companies. It also established a revolving $5 billion loan program to help suppliers.
Rattner did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Bloom declined to discuss the change.
Some officials speculated that Rattner was in line for a big job in the Treasury Department. But his chances of confirmation dimmed when he was linked to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into payments made to an investment firm caught up in a kickback scheme involving New York pension funds. Rattner wasn’t accused of any wrongdoing.
Calling Rattner’s vision and leadership “invaluable to the task force’s efforts,” Geithner said there was still much to do to ensure GM and Chrysler come out of this process as stronger and more competitive companies.
“President Obama has made it perfectly clear that it is the responsibility of their private boards of directors and management teams to deliver that result,” he said.