April 1, 2004
New Chief In Charge
Taking General Motors to the next level of creating compelling cars and trucks is the charge of Ed Welburn, GM’s new vice president of design. The 53-year-old Welburn is the sixth person in GM’s 95-year history to hold the position — and the first African American. Welburn assumed the post after outgoing design chief Wayne Cherry resigned.
“The choice of Ed is interesting for obvious reasons,” says Brett Smith, a senior industry analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Detroit. “He certainly has done a fantastic job of working through the corporate system, which at GM can sometimes be a difficult thing to do.”
That system has often been criticized for putting constraints on the creative process. “Hopefully this will be an opportunity for [Welburn] to go back in time when design was king at GM and to let the people who are good at it do it and not let the bean counters and engineers tell them how to design,” adds Smith.
A native of Philadelphia and graduate of Howard University’s College of Fine Arts, Welburn began his GM career in 1972 as an associate designer. His first major project was the Cutlass Supreme. His designs of the Oldsmobile Aerotech established two world records. He played an instrumental role in the design of the Cadillac Escalade, Hummer H2, and the Chevrolet SSR.
Welburn has been in love with car design all his life. “I’ve been drawing cars since a very early age, and when I was 11, I sat down at my mother’s desk with my parents and sent a letter off to GM. I always wanted to work there and never even thought about working at any other car company,” he recalls.
MICHAEL LEE-CHINBUYS MERCHANT BANK
Billionaire Michael Lee-Chin, chief executive officer of AIC Ltd., Canada’s 13th largest mutual fund company, acquired a merchant bank in Trinidad & Tobago — Total Finance — as he continues to deepen his investments in the region. His Canadian fund management company, AIC Management, purchased the bank. The company previously acquired the Jamaican government’s 75% interest in National Commercial Bank in March 2002 (see “Buy, Hold, and Prosper,” August 2002). NCB is now listed on the T&T stock exchange and had reported assets of J$145.9 billion in 2003. Details of the sale were not available at press time.
‘L.A.’ REID OUSTED BY ARISTA,SIGNED BY DEF JAM
Antonio ‘L.A.’ Reid, the A-list record producer behind Usher, TLC, and Toni Braxton, has been ousted by Arista Records. Parent company BMG’s pending merger with rival Sony Music, plus Arista’s $100 million losses last year, are thought to be the reason. According to news sources, Reid spent lavishly to put CDs on the charts and took the fall after a number of releases from highly paid artists bombed. He was seen as a big spender from the start, taking hundreds of employees on a retreat in Puerto Rico when he was named Arista president and CEO in July 2000, replacing founder and CEO Clive Davis. Reid is heading over to Def Jam. At press time,