Time for "Government Motors" to hit the road

My view is influenced by personal experience. I was brought in by the White House as GM’s chairman in 2009, around the time of the bankruptcy, and became CEO later that year. As a company, we were grateful for the government’s support. But as GM’s financial health began to improve, I could detect no real sense of urgency, or even interest, on the part of the government to relinquish control. Quite the contrary, it seemed that the TARP program at GM was expanding and digging in for the long haul. This concerned me.

When planning got under way for the initial public offering in 2010, I pushed for the government to sell its entire stake—all 912 million shares, or 61%—on day one. I thought that parting ways in one clean sweep would send a strong signal to Wall Street and the world that GM was back. If the stock sale fell short, GM could use its own cash to make up the difference, ensuring that U.S. taxpayers got repaid in full. This, to me, was a win-win: GM could return to running its own business, and Treasury could rightly declare victory on the auto bailout. …

According to published reports—and I claim no special knowledge here—GM is now trying to convince Treasury to sell, for some of the reasons I have mentioned. These same reports say that the government may be willing, but not at the current stock price. GM stock hasn’t performed as well as everybody would like, but I remain hopeful that it will rebound as the global economy improves.