Edward Earl Whitacre, Jr. is a former chairman and CEO of General Motors. It was his position as the former chairman of the board and chief executive officer with SBC (Southwestern Bell Corporation) that established him as a world renowned executive. He worked towards making it a diversified, global communications brand and swiftly increased its growth as a national communications provider and took it through lucrative acquisitions like, Pacific Telesis Group (1997) for $17 billion, Southern New England Telecommunications (1998) for $4.4 billion, Comcast Cellular (1999), Ameritech (1999) for $62 billion and Bell-South (2000). Under his leadership, the company was named the World's Most Admired Telecommunications Company by Fortune magazine for the 6th consecutive year in 2003; it also named SBC as America's Most Admired Telecommunications Company for the 7th time in the 8 years. As Whitacre created long-standing worth for company shareowners by providing steadfast and inventive telecommunication services, he was once named among the Top 25 Executives of the Year by BusinessWeek and was listed as one of the Best CEOs in America by Worth magazine—one of the many accolades that he achieved in his career.
Childhood & Early Life
Edward Whitacre, Jr. was born in Ennis, Texas into a middle class family to a railroad engineer. Much of his childhood was spent in nature—shooting rabbits in the fields and catching frogs from the creeks.
During his high school Whitacre used to play both football and baseball. After finishing high school, he was advised by his father to attend college and he got himself enrolled in the Texas Tech University.
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Whilst pursuing his degree, Whitacre worked at the Dallas telephone company Southwestern Bell - he was so adamant on getting a job there that when they refused him he told them that he was ready to do even menial tasks.
After hammering in fence posts and measuring telephone wires for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, Whitacre was absorbed into the company as a faculty engineer in 1963. The following year, he finished his industrial engineering degree.
He was doing very well with the company’s operational departments in Arkansas, Kansas and Texas and in 1977 and was made the assistant vice president of engineering and network services in Dallas, Texas.
Whitacre continued to progress with the company and was made the president of Southwestern Bell’s Kansas division in 1982 and within a few years he became the group president in charge of all of the company's non-telephone operations.
This was not it - in 1986 he was named vice president of public affairs and revenues and had responsibilities for Southwestern Bell's legislative initiatives, and in the same year he joined the board of directors and was named the vice chairman.
With his dedication, talent and hard-work, board of directors decided to make him the president and chief operating officer of Southwestern Bell in 1988, which made him responsible for the operation of the company's six main subsidiaries.
In 1990, Whitacre became chairman of the board and chief executive officer, along with his position as director of Southwestern Bell since October 1986, chairman of the Executive Committee, and member of Corporate Development Committee and Finance Committee.
With the name change of the company to SBC Communications in 1994, Whitacre started working towards making it a global communications brand and after the passing of the Telecommunications Act, he quickly increased its growth as a national communications provider.
Whitacre took SBC through lucrative acquisitions like, Pacific Telesis Group (1997) for $17 billion, Southern New England Telecommunications (1998) for $4.4 billion, Comcast Cellular (1999), Ameritech (1999) for $62 billion and Bell-South (2000).
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SBC was named the ‘World's Most Admired Telecommunications Company’ by Fortune magazine in 2003; Fortune also named SBC as ‘America's Most Admired Telecommunications Company’. Whitacre created durable worth for company shareowners by providing dependable and innovative telecommunication services.
In 2007, Whitacre retired as chief executive officer and chairman of the board and Randall Stephenson became his successor. Upon retirement, Whitacre was entitled for a $158 million payout from AT&T.
In 2008, Whitacre was elected to the board of directors for ExxonMobil and the following year, General Motors made him the chairman of their company, and he was eventually made the permanent CEO after serving in an interim capacity.
The most prominent work of Whitacre’s career is considered to be his position as the chief executive officer and chairman of the board in SBC. Under his leadership, the company was named the World's Most Admired Telecommunications Company by Fortune.
Awards & Achievements
Whitacre received awards like: Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce's Freeman Award, the Spirit of Achievement Award from the National Jewish Medical and Research Center, and the International Citizen of the Year Award from the San Antonio World Affairs Council.
AT&T headquarters in downtown Dallas was named ‘Whitacre Tower’ in honor of his 44 years at the company, and he was also inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame and the American Academy of Achievement.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by the University of the Incarnate Word and Texas Tech announced that its college of engineering will be renamed the ‘Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering’ in 2008.
Whitacre was a finalist for Texan of the Year in 2010.
He was honored with the Amistad Award by the San Antonio-Mexico Friendship Council Inc (SAMFCO).
He was also on the board of the Institute for International Economics and a member of The Business Council.