I may have spoken too soon several weeks ago when I called Melissa Francis the “dumbest person on CNBC.” Dennis Kneale has thrown his hat in the ring.
Dennis Kneale rarely provides any real analysis, and that’s the biggest problem on CNBC. Too many of the CNBC hosts use each piece of news to regurgitate their political views, and Kneale is one of the worst offenders.
Today he was outraged that the Obama administration would ask Rick Wagoner to step down. He talked about it on the air, and he even managed to write a column about it.
He starts with a rational statement, but he quickly lets his anger get the best of him.
Yes, it’s about time. Wagoner had been in denial about the auto industry’s woes for far too long. He just wasn’t scared enough. But if this IS the right move, um, then why didn’t the REAL shareholders of GM—the big pension funds and mutual funds in particular—demand it long ago? Maybe because they felt Wagoner was doing as good a job as anyone could under impossible difficulties.
So, he starts by admitting this might be a good move, but he’s concerned that the “shareholders” didn’t ask Wagoner to leave. Of course, the stockholders really don’t have that power (GM is a Delaware corporation, so it’s “stockholders,” not “shareholders”). The board of directors has the power to fire the CEO, not the stockholders. The stockholders can elect a new board, but elections usually happen once per year. The stockholders of course HAVE weighed in by hammering the stock from about $40 to under $5 in just six months. Do you think they’re happy with Wagoner? He also doesn’t mention that the Obama administration also wiped out most of the Board of Directors as well.
Also, at this point, who gives a damn what the stockholders think? This company would be bankrupt without the help of the federal government and the stockholders would lose everything. As the most senior lender, and as the ONLY entity or person on the planet capable of saving this mess of a company, the government has every right, AND the obligation, to put in place a management team of its choosing.
In the next paragraph, we see his real agenda – using this incident to take cheap shots at the Obama administration.
The bigger worry is this summary execution betrays a deep antipathy toward Big Business on the part of the Obama Administration. Lamentably, the president’s henchmen may have imposed this coup mainly for reasons of image and example-setting. No wonder stocks are down big today.
Here we go again. Anyone who uses the phrase “the president’s henchmen” in this context shows he’s not serious about analyzing the issue. Can’t he just explain why he disagrees with the decision? Does he have to use this kind of language? Is someone at CNBC asking him to act like an asshole so he gets more page views for his articles? We’re in the middle of a huge financial crisis that has produced real anger among the American people, and reasonable people will disagree about how we should address these political problems, so is it really necessary for CNBC hacks to ratchet up rhetoric in this case?
Then he goes on to slam Fritz Henderson.
Otherwise, how is it that GM . . . is any better off run by Wagoner’s doppelganger—Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, like Wagoner a GM lifer who helped preside over the automaker’s years-long decline?
Naturally, he doesn’t answer his own question. That might require some actual reporting that would compromise the pissy tone he has worked so hard to establish. He probably spent at least five minutes coming up with the “doppelganger” crack. If he had done a little digging, he might find that some people actually think Henderson could do a good job.
Then again, Henderson is no Wagoner. Where the boss is measured and aloof, Henderson is fast-talking and direct. He attacks problems with gusto, which is why GM sent him to trouble spots on three continents. “Fritz has a real sense of urgency,” says Joseph Phillippi, principal of firm Auto Trends Consulting. “His intensity would be a big plus.”
Earlier this decade, Henderson shored up GM’s flailing European operations. He needed to cut jobs and came out swinging—announcing 12,000 layoffs even before inking a deal with union bosses. The move sparked a wildcat strike in Germany, but Henderson got his way. He also helped introduce the Chevrolet brand to Eastern Europe. After years of losses, GM Europe made $357 million in 2006 and a small profit last year. (Those gains have deteriorated along with the global economy.)
During a two-year stint in Asia, Henderson simplified GM’s brand strategy. The company used to sell Saturn, Chevrolet, and cars from former partners Isuzu, Suzuki, and Subaru in Japan. Henderson focused solely on Chevy. He can’t take all the credit, but Chevy is now GM’s global brand.
Since returning to Detroit nearly three years ago, Henderson has spent much of his time negotiating with the United Auto Workers. The deal he cut with the union will save GM billions a year. “If it weren’t for Fritz and his team,” said UAW President Ron Gettelfinger at the time, “this deal would never have come about.”
Now, we don’t know if Henderson is the right choice. One could argue he was too easy on the UAW in the last round of negotiations. But we certainly didn’t learn anything about this important move from Kneale.
The future of one of the most iconic companies in American history hangs in the balance, and all of his comments on the subject were simplistic and useless. He was more concerned with insults and politics as opposed to analysis. What a joke.