President Obama's former auto czar, Steven Rattner, tried to recruit Nissan-Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn, a Brazilian-born, Lebanese descendant, to run General Motors, a one-time symbol of American success, according to Rattner's new tell-all book about the federal bailout of GM and Chrysler.
Rattner, who served as Obama's auto adviser for six months, offered Ghosn the job in 2009 after Rick Wagoner was fired and afterGhosn sought to make GM part of the Renault-Nissan Alliance – an effort he unsuccessfully pursued in 2006.
When Rattner rejected the idea, he asked Ghosn if he was interested in becoming GM's chief executive, Rattner wrote, according to excerpts publishing in the Detroit News. Ghosn declined.
"I knew it was a long shot and was not surprised when he deftly demurred," Rattner recounted in his book.
Rattner eventually tapped Fritz Henderson for the position. He was replaced by former AT&T CEO Edward Whitacre Jr.
When Wagoner was ousted, Obama expressed concern about allowing Wagoner to collect $7.1 million of the $22.1 million he was owed in accrued pension benefits, Rattner said.
Obama had difficulty with the "notion of writing a check that was about 100 times the annual income of a GM worker to the CEO who had brought the company down."
Obama "grimaced and reluctantly acquiesced," Rattner wrote. "I found it striking that the president of the United States had spent more time on an issue of executive pay than on the question of whether to dismiss a major CEO in the first place."