The former chairman and CEO of AT&T, Edward Whitacre, will become chairman of the 'New GM' when the company is launched later this summer, GM's interim chairman Kent Kresa announced last night. He will remain in the temporary post until the launch.

Whitacre, an engineer, and Kresa, along with current board members Philip Laskawy, Kathryn Marinello, Erroll Davis, Neville Isdell and president and CEO Frederick Henderson, will serve as the nucleus of the New GM board, GM said.

The six other members of the current board will most likely retire no later than the approval of the sale of GM assets to the new entity.

A selection process is currently under way for four more directors.

The Canadian government and the new UAW Voluntary Employee Benefit Association (VEBA) will each nominate one director, bringing the total number of directors to 13.

Whitacre, 67, was chairman and CEO of AT&T and its predecessor companies from 1990 to 2007. During his tenure, which began with Southwestern Bell, Whitacre led the company through a series of mergers and acquisitions - including that of AT&T in 2005 - to create the nation's largest provider of local, long distance and wireless services. He is also on the boards of fuel company ExxonMobil Corporation and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation railroad.

"The appointment of Ed Whitacre as chairman represents a very auspicious beginning for the New GM," said Kresa. "We look forward to working with him to complete the reinvention of GM and maximise the enormous potential of this new enterprise."

"He is coming into an industry that is accustomed to heavy regulations. He knows how to grow a company. He gives a lot of credibility to GM's restructuring," Frost and Sullivan auto analyst Stephen Spivey told Reuters.

"We are looking at candidates that have been involved in companies where there has been a dramatic change in the marketplace," Kresa told Reuters of the search for new directors.

The US Treasury was "the ultimate decider" in the decision to appoint Whitacre as chairman, Kresa added. A small group of candidates were considered for the role but Whitacre had been under consideration from late March, he said.