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GM picks Solso as chairman


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Former Cummins CEO Tim Solso has been named chairman of the board of General Motors Co.

The leadership shakeup also involves the earlier-than-planned departure of current Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson and the ascendance to the top job of Mary Barra, the first woman to lead one of America’s big-three automakers.

General Motors said in a news release that Akerson will step down Jan. 15, a few months earlier than planned, because of his wife’s recently diagnosed advanced-stage cancer.

The board, on which Solso has served since June 2012, chose as his successor Barra, executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain. She has been with General Motors for 33 years.

The board also named Solso to succeed Akerson as chairman of the board.

The Detroit News reported that “Akerson said the board agreed to split the duties of chairman and CEO, to allow the CEO to focus on the tasks at hand and for a chairman to handle board duties.”

The duties of a board of directors generally include setting dividends and executive compensation and determining a company’s overall objectives.

GM’s 14-member board also includes E. Neville Isdell, retired Coca-Cola CEO; Thomas M. Schoewe, former Wal-Mart chief financial officer; and retired Adm. Michael G. Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

As Cummins’ chief executive from 2000 through 2011, Solso led the Columbus-based engine maker through a tumultuous period with two recessions, tough emissions hurdles and money problems. By the end of his tenure, the company had generated record profits in seven of the prior eight years.

In early 2010, financial magazine Barron’s named Solso one of the nation’s 30 best CEOs. And in December 2010, MarketWatch, published by Dow Jones & Co., named Solso one of the five best CEOs of the decade, along with Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com; Howard Schultz of Starbucks; Eric Schmidt of Google; and Steve Jobs of Apple.

Most recently, Solso received the inaugural Mitch Daniels Leadership Prize. The honor, awarded Oct. 24, recognizes “individuals whose achievements have lifted the arc of the state in ways that will have an enduring and positive impact on Indiana’s economic and social well-being.”

Solso, who was in Columbus on Tuesday, could not be reached for comment.

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