General Motors Files for Bankruptcy


gmGeneral Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection today as part of the Obama administration’s plan to shrink the automaker to a sustainable size and give a majority ownership stake to the federal government. GM’s bankruptcy filing is the fourth-largest in U.S. history and the largest for an industrial company. The company said it has $172.81 billion in debt and $82.29 billion in assets. As it reorganizes, the fallen icon of American industrial might will rely on $30 billion of additional financial assistance from the Treasury Department and $9.5 billion from Canada. That’s on top of about $20 billion in taxpayer money GM already has received in the form of low-interest loans.

GM will follow a similar course taken by smaller rival Chrysler LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in April. A judge gave Chrysler approval to sell most of its assets to Italy’s Fiat, moving the U.S. automaker closer to a quick exit from court protection, possibly this week.

The plan is for the federal government to take a 60 percent ownership stake in the new GM. The Canadian government would take 12.5 percent, with the United Auto Workers getting a 17.5 percent share and unsecured bondholders receiving 10 percent. Existing GM shareholders are expected to be wiped out.

The administration expects the new GM could emerge from bankruptcy in as little as 60 to 90 days.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the nation about GM’s future at midday from Washington, and GM CEO Fritz Henderson is to follow him with a news conference in New York.

Beyond the bankruptcy announcement today, GM is expected to reveal 14 plants it intends to close. One of those plants, however, will be retooled to build a small car.

GM’s filing comes 32 days after a Chapter 11 filing by Chrysler, which also was hobbled by plunging sales of cars and trucks as the worst recession since the Great Depression intensified.

The third of the one-time Big Three, Ford Motor Co., has also been stung hard by the sales slump, but it avoided bankruptcy by mortgaging all of its assets in 2006 to borrow roughly $25 billion, giving it a financial cushion GM and Chrysler lacked.

The downsized GM’s brands will be limited to Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick. Its Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab operations will be either sold or closed. GM said it was finalizing a deal to sell Hummer, and plans for Saturn are expected to be announced within weeks.

GM, whose headquarters tower over downtown Detroit, said it believed the filing was not an acknowledgment of failure, but a necessary way to cleanse itself in an orderly fashion of problems and costs that have dogged it for decades.

Trading of GM shares was halted early today after they plunged Friday as low as 74 cents, the lowest price in the company’s 100-year history. GM will be kicked out of the Dow Jones industrial average because rules established by the News Corp. unit that oversees the index prohibit it from including companies that have filed for bankruptcy.

GM first sought help from the Bush administration and Congress last year as it was in the midst of being staggered by $30.9 billion in losses and seeing its cash resources shrink by more than $19 billion.

Consumers, worried about the economy and the future of GM, shied away from the company’s cars and trucks this year even after President George W. Bush promised loans and Obama followed through with billions more in assistance – plus a stiff set of new requirements GM was ordered to meet.

When GM failed to do so by a March 31 deadline, Obama forced out CEO Rick Wagoner and replaced him with Henderson.

Wagoner served at the helm since 2000 and was the face of GM when he first flew on the company jet to ask Congress for aid. After a firestorm of negative publicity, Wagoner rode in a hybrid Chevrolet Malibu from Detroit to Washington for a second set of withering questions before lawmakers.

But that amounted to only a sideshow as the automaker’s financial position worsened. Its revenues plunged almost 50 percent in the quarter ended March 30 and it racked up another $6 billion in losses.

The Henderson-led GM faced a government-imposed June 1 deadline to restructure, slash costs and modify contracts with its union and dealers. But meeting most of those demands, plus a late agreement by many bondholders to swap portions of the $27 billion in debt they are owed for shares in a new GM, were not enough to prevent the court filing.

In fact, it was an all-out sprint to today’s filing, as GM quickly sought to nail down deals with its union, bondholders and sell off brands and along with most of its Opel operations in Europe in an effort to appear in court with a near-complete plan to quickly emerge as a leaner company with a chance to become profitable.

In Germany on Sunday, the government agreed to lend GM’s Opel unit $2.1 billion, a move necessary for Magna International Inc. to acquire the company. The Canadian auto parts supplier will take a 20 percent stake in Opel and Russian-owned Sberbank will take a 35 percent, giving the two businesses a majority. GM retains 35 percent of Opel, with the remaining 10 percent going to employees.

In the U.S., the United Auto Workers’ ratification of concessions, announced Friday, will save GM $1.3 billion per year and bring its labor costs close to those of its Japanese competitors. The new UAW deal freezes wages, ends bonuses and eliminates some noncompetitive work rules.

It also moves billions in retiree health care costs off GM’s books. In exchange for its ownership stake, $6.5 billion of interest-bearing preferred shares, and a $2.5 billion note, the trust will take on responsibility for all health care costs for retirees starting next year. Higher health care costs alone accounted for a $1,500-per-car cost gap between GM and Japanese vehicles.

GM will offer buyouts and early retirement packages to all of its 61,000 hourly workers as it plans to shrink overall employment. The company also has about 27,000 white collar employees. In contrast, GM employed 618,000 Americans in 1979, more than any other company.

GM earlier outlined a plan to cut about 1,100, or 40 percent, of its dealers by the end of 2010. It also plans to shed about 500 dealerships that market the Saturn, Hummer and Saab brands.

But just cutting labor and overhead costs won’t be enough to save the company. It also has been working to streamline its engineering and design, as well as standardize many parts so they can go into multiple models.

The once powerful GM earns a place in history as the largest U.S. industrial company to file for bankruptcy protection, and the fourth-largest company overall to do so based on its $82.29 billion in assets.

Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s September 2008 bankruptcy filing is the nation’s largest with $691 billion in assets, and likely served as a catalyst for GM – and Chrysler’s – downfall, as it hastened the erosion of credit markets, making it more difficult for consumers and dealers to finance new vehicles.

{Detroit Free Press/Noam Newscenter}


  1. This should be a lesson to all those that believe that America can never fall. Remember, Rome fell, Greece fell, The Great British empire fell, and America may fall. GM represented mighty America. To all those that have savings in US dollars, I advise that you should diversify into foreign currency such as in the currencies of China, Japan, Switzerland, Euro.

  2. Erlich Yid, Swiss Franks/Euros are always good advice, in good times or bad…
    Well, symbol of NORMAL America is bankrupt.
    Degenerates are not bankrupt, abominable hollywood is not bankrupt, znus, pritzus, toeiva are working hard.
    Read the Yotzros of the Shacharis of the First Day of Hag HaShavuos again…