GM to file for bankruptcy Monday

May 31, 2009 7:19:08 PM PDT
General Motors, the humbled auto giant that has been part of American life for more than 100 years, will file for bankruptcy protection on Monday in a deal that will give taxpayers a 60 percent ownership stake and expand the government's reach into big business. Underscoring the government's extraordinary role, President Barack Obama planned to announce his support for GM's restructuring strategy at a midday appearance at the White House, much as he did in April when Chrysler sought court protection.

GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson planned to hold a press conference in New York immediately following Obama's announcement.

Administration officials said late Sunday the federal government would pump $30 billion dollars into GM as it makes its way through bankruptcy court. That's besides the $20 billion in taxpayers' money that the Treasury already lent to the automaker.

The money would come from what remains of the $700 billion rescue fund for the financial sector.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in advance of Obama's public remarks, said the administration expects the court process to last 60 to 90 days. If successful, GM will emerge as a leaner company with a smaller work force, fewer plants and a trimmed dealership force. The company will stick with its four core brands - Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC.

"There is still plenty of pain to go around, but I'm confident this is far better than the alternative," Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Sunday after being briefed about the developments by the president. "It's a new beginning, it's a rebirth, it's a new General Motors."

The government's ownership stake and huge financial injection represents yet another remarkable intervention into the American private sector. The Treasury has stepped in to help banks, it has taken majority ownership in insurance conglomerate American International Group and it has guided Chrysler through bankruptcy protection proceedings.

Despite its sizable ownership, administration officials said the government intends to stay out of day-to-day management decisions.

It says it intends to shed its ownership stakes "as soon as practicable."

"Our goal is to promote strong and viable companies that can quickly be profitable and contribute to economic growth and jobs without government involvement," a fact sheet issued by the White House and the Treasury Department said.

Still, it was the Obama administration that instructed GM to trim itself to a point that it could break even by selling 10 million cars a year. It's current break even point is 16 million cars.

GM plans to name turnaround executive Al Koch to serve as its chief restructuring officer to help the company through bankruptcy protection, said a person familiar with the matter. The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was not authorized to speak about the appointment publicly.


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