Why Won't the CEO of Chrysler Go 'On the Record'?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," December 3, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, wait till you hear this. Tomorrow night the CEO of Chrysler, Robert Nardelli was scheduled to be right here to go "On the Record." Nardelli decided to cancel our interview, which seemed odd to us. Why wouldn't Nardelli come here if he's doing so many interviews with so many networks?

Well, we did our own investigating and we think we know the reason. In January, 2007, we did a story about Nardelli he may not have liked. Most people don't realize this, but Nardelli was canned from his last job as CEO of a Home Depot. Nardelli got the boot from Home Depot because of poor performance.

But listen to this, he was given -- hold on to your seat -- $210 million as a parting gift. Yes, he was paid $210 million for failure. Would that happen to you if you got fired? Well, this is the same Robert Nardelli who is now coming to Washington begging for your taxpayer money as CEO of another failing company.

Joining us by phone is Corey Dade, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal." Corey, what is it in this man's background that should give any taxpayer confidence that if his company is loaned billions of dollars that he can do anything to help this company?

COREY DADE, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Well, I think it should be noted, Greta, that, you know, that he wasn't exactly a failure. He was certainly successful before he got to Home Depot when he was running GE Power. Through cost cuts and other methods, he was able to bring GE Power to record profits. And at Home Depot, there were some market forces that were just as detrimental to the company as his own leadership.

And at the end of the day, Home Depot's stock price during his tenure there fell about, say, about eight percent over his roughly nearly seven years there, but we're still talking about him running the world's -- one of the world's largest retailers. And the company, by the time he left, was still throwing off profit margins that were up toward 20 percent.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then why did he get pushed out?

DADE: Well, I think it's one of those things where they were a victim of their own success. You know, for years, Home Depot was a huge growth story throwing off 25 percent in profits each year and no company can keep that up. Every company starts to mature and they were facing also massive competition from Lowe's, which was basically undercutting them, and at a certain point, they were no longer a growth company.

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And under Nardelli, he was starting to change the culture. He's known as being rather pugnacious, he's certainly -- sort of has an autocratic style that didn't mix at Home Depot.

And at a certain point when Home Depot's growth started to slow, shareholders started looking at his compensation and raising questions about whether or not the compensation needed to be adjusted. He was getting, for example, a guaranteed $3 million annual bonus regardless of the company's performance.

VAN SUSTEREN: So he leaves with a $210 million golden parachute, which is so astounding to me. I mean I can't even see straight because if he had been a great success they would have kept him, I think. I disagree with you on that.

But anyway, I won't quibble with you on that. But here's the thing is that we don't know what he's making at Chrysler right now, do we, because it's privately held?

DADE: Correct.

VAN SUSTEREN: He comes to Washington with a history of getting pushed out of Home Depot. I say pushed out- getting a $210 million golden parachute.

I think if he had been as good as you might suggest, they would have kept him. And now he wants more money for a bailouted(ph) company. Three weeks ago he came. He didn't have an economic plan. Now he's come back with a plan. We don't know what he's being compensated for. I don't know, maybe you feel good about it, but that makes me feel apprehensive.

DADE: No, I understand that. And I'm not suggesting he was an excellent manager. What I'm suggesting is that for a company that was one of the most-had one of the most historic growth stories for a couple of decades, when that growth starts to slow, it is still one of the most successful retailing chains in the U.S.

And he was not able to stop the slide even though they were still able to make profits.

VAN SUSTEREN: I only have 10 seconds left. Was he part of the growth of Home Depot?

DADE: No, he came after. And so now he's in a position at Chrysler to be the public face of a company asking for a bailout, and that's a position he's historically been uncomfortable with.

VAN SUSTEREN: Corey, thank you.

DADE: You're welcome.

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