O’Connell, the former CFO of General Motors and the chief executive officer and chairman of GM’s Acceptance Corp. died recently in Boston at 76 years of age.

The executive first entered GM’s ranks – the automaker’s New York treasurer’s office – back in 1965 after getting a bachelor’s degree in economics at Yale University and an MBA from Harvard. He then moved to Detroit after 1970 and became the director of the product planning group, then vice president of the unit and then transferred the responsibilities of the marketing chief. Numerous accounts of the time describe him as “a mountainous man with an acid wit, an intimidating manner, and prodigious appetite for work and food” and the generator of “liberal accounting … the profits that GM’s hapless domestic operating executives seemed unable to produce by building and selling cars.” But his fortunes were soon intertwined with the 1990-1991 troubles when the Persian Gulf War, recession and market share reduction brought a massive $6.4 billion loss.

Transferred as a demotion to running GMAC, he recovered the financial stability and retired from the company in 1994. “Bob O’Connell has had a long and distinguished career in a variety of roles at GM. He deserves special thanks for running GMAC during an extremely difficult and challenging period,” commented then CEO Jack Smith when he retired. Since 1995, O’Connell transferred its work duties to EMC Corp., where he was chief staff officer and then moved to RWD Technologies, becoming senior vice president, a member of the board and the CFO in 2000 and 2001. During the 200s he took over various board positions for companies such as CenterPoint Energy and Gulfmark Offshore.

Via Automotive News


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