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GM's Dhivya Suryadevara resigns; John Stapleton named acting CFO

General Motors' first female chief financial officer, Dhivya Suryadevara, has resigned from the company after two years in the role to pursue a job outside the auto industry. 

GM said John Stapleton, the company's North America chief financial officer, will serve as acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15.

Suryadevara has joined Stripe, a global online payments company based in San Francisco, as its new CFO, Stripe said in a news release Tuesday. She will play a crucial role in enabling the company's "aggressive growth while maintaining the highest standards in discipline and fiscal responsibility," Stripe said in its statement.

“I’m very excited to join Stripe at a pivotal time for the company. Stripe’s mission to increase the GDP of the internet is more important now than ever,” Suryadevara said in Stripe's release. "I really enjoy leading complex, large-scale businesses and I hope to use my skills to help accelerate Stripe’s already steep growth trajectory.”

In an early morning news release Tuesday, GM said Suryadevara will leave the company "for an external opportunity outside the automotive industry. GM will conduct an internal and external search for a successor."

"This is so disappointing," said Morningstar Analyst David Whiston. "She is very good and I think other firms realized that and one has now hired her. I don’t think this was something Barra wanted to have happen but it shows the caliber of talent she assembled is good."

Indeed, GM CEO Mary Barra said Suryadevara has been a transformational leader.

"She has helped the company strengthen our balance sheet, improve our cost structure, focus on cash generation and drive the right investments for our future," Barra said in a statement. "We wish her every success."

GM's cost cuts

Suryadevara, who joined GM in 2005, was 39 when she was CFO in June 2018. She succeeded Chuck Stevens, who retired March 1, 2019. Prior to that, Suryadevara worked on GM's divesting of its Opel operations in Germany; its acquisition in autonomous technology business, Cruise; GM's investment in ride-sharing service Lyft, and its partnership with SoftBank to invest $2.25 billion in Cruise. 

She was the driving force behind GM's November 2018 announcement it would initially close five plants in North America and cut tens of thousands of salaried and hourly jobs to restructure the company. GM ended up permanently closing three: Lordstown Assembly, which it has since sold to Lordstown Motors, Baltimore Transmission and Warren Transmission.

But GM thinned out its ranks considerably under Suryadevara. It eliminated about 3,750 salaried workers through buyouts and terminated another 5,000. She said GM would get $2 billion to $2.5 billion in cost savings in 2019 from those actions.

But with the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 has been a rough year for the auto industry and GM has not escaped unscathed, though it has held up better than its cross-town rivals Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

In the second quarter, GM reported a net loss of $800 million, down 132% from the same time a year earlier. GM burned through $8 billion in automotive operating cash in the quarter.

But there were some bright spots. Suryadevara assured Wall Street the second half of the year would improve and GM would pay off the $16 billion revolving line of credit it took out earlier this year to make it through the pandemic. And, as the Free Press first reported, GM said it would restore full pay to its 69,000 salaried employees a month ahead of schedule.

More: GM to restore full pay for 69,000 workers — but CEO to keep salary cut

GM ended the quarter with $30.6 billion in automotive cash.

In 2019, Suryadevara's total compensation was $6.8 million, up from $5.5 million in 2018. 

"I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given at GM," said Suryadevara. "While I look forward to a new opportunity that will allow me to apply my skills in a new sector, I have great confidence in GM's trajectory and future."

CFO during strike

Stapleton, 52, joined GM in 1990. He has been in his current role since January 2014. An avid fisherman in his spare time, Stapleton has held a series of financial roles with increasing responsibility in manufacturing, labor, performance improvement and operations, the company said.

A GM spokesman said Stapleton has held manufacturing finance roles at several of GM's plants and its Detroit headquarters. He has also been a key leader on several contract negotiations with the UAW, including during last fall's 40-day strike against the automaker in his role as CFO of GM North America. 

Stapleton spent three years at GM Europe, was the CFO of GM of Canada, CFO of GM's Global Manufacturing, sat on the Opel supervisory board in 2013 and became CFO of GM North America in February 2014, replacing Chuck Stevens.

More: GM loses $800 million in 2nd quarter, but beats Wall Street projections

More: GM's Mary Barra earns $21.6 million in 2019, making her top-paid Detroit auto CEO

More: General Motors names Suryadevara as company's first female CFO

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