Austin Ligon, cofounder and retired CEO of CarMax, had an interesting comment about Obama published as a letter to the editor in latest issue of The Washington Monthly. I trust he won’t mind my quoting him here:
As the founder and former CEO of a multi-billion dollar public auto retailer, and someone who was intimately familiar with the history and the players involved with the failure of Detroit I will add another positive wrinkle to Obama’s achievements…
An even bigger accomplishment in the Auto Restructuring, and one the Administration is even MORE unwilling to focus on for obvious reasons, was the judgment (absolutely correct) that both the Management and Boards of GM and Chrysler were incompetent and unworthy of investment. So Obama, thru Rattner, did what a truly GREAT CEO or Private Equity guy would do…he fired them,and brought in new guys from completely outside Detroit. That was a HUGE risk, undertaken at lightning speed, which all of the traditionalists in the industry thought was crazy.
But in one fell swoop, he fixed 50 years of Detroit incompetence at the highest levels. Only Bill Ford had the courage to do this previously, when he fired himself and brought in a great guy from outside the industry. And he doesn’t get the credit he deserves either, though he saved his shareholders and family in the process.
To put it another way, Obama has done two Private Equity deals in his life. They were bigger than the sum total of everything Mitt Romney has EVER done, and they worked better and faster…and all the benefit accrued to the nation at large….no “2 and 20” skim off required.
That level of direct involvement and decision-making, like his direct decision to “GO” on Osama Bin Laden, shows you that Obama actually has great courage and decisiveness when the chips are down and a big decision MUST be made. History will, in the fullness of time, give him enormous credit for this. But don’t hold your breath for the moment.