General Motors Co. CEO Dan Akerson’s conflicts with former marketing boss Joel Ewanick started weeks before he was ousted for not properly disclosing as much as a third of the cost of a $559 million (U.S.) soccer deal with English club Manchester United, people familiar with the situation said.
Akerson had punished Ewanick by forcing him to carry a so-called “Farley Award,” named for Ford Motor Co. marketing chief Jim Farley, over Ewanick’s public profanity during a June conference in Cannes, France, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.
GM’s CEO would no longer protect his marketing head after a whistle-blower stepped forward and the automaker found out Ewanick was spreading the price of a Chevrolet sponsorship agreement, with English soccer team Manchester United, among several different marketing budgets to avoid his boss’s spending limits, the people said.
When confronted, Ewanick denied it, they added. There’s no evidence that Ewanick profited personally from the transaction said two of the people, while another said the investigation continues.
The removal of a key lieutenant he was mentoring reflects the steep challenges facing Akerson as he tries to change the culture of the largest carmaker in the U.S.
“Whether you liked Joel or not, he brought a significant amount of experience both on the brand side as well as the agency side, and he had a lot of very influential relationships,” Mike Jackson, a former vice president of marketing at GM, who left the automaker in 2007, said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “It’s a huge setback.”
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