Detroit: General Motors is shuffling senior PR people between here and its European operations, while the company's VP of communications Steve Harris mulls retirement at the end of this year.
Harris said the current executive moves are not related to the possibility of his departure, but are in the interest of creating better global cohesion.
Harris considered retiring last year, but agreed to stay at the urging of GM CEO Rick Waggoner. Waggoner is again asking him to stay another year, but Harris said that he is undecided, adding that he will at least see this year out.
Tony Cervone, executive director of executive and financial communications at GM's headquarters since 2001, is being sent to Europe to become VP of GM Europe communications, based in Zurich.
Marc Beckers, who had held that position, is moving to Detroit to become VP of GM product communications.
Cervone's old duties will be divided between Gary Grates, executive director of internal communications, and Tom Kowaleski, VP of GM's North America communications.
Grates will take on executive communications duties, while Kowaleski takes on product
and regulatory-issues-related communications, Harris said.
The expansion of their duties could make Kowaleski and Grates leading candidates to replace Harris should he make the decision to retire.
Along with Grates and Kowaleski, Edd Snyder, executive director of corporate communications, also has been mentioned in Detroit as a possible successor to Harris.
Harris said bringing Beckers to Detroit will give his staff a wider perspective on GM PR issues around the world. "We're trying hard to globalize the function by having him here," Harris explained.
Beckers is expected to stay in Detroit for three years before he returns to Europe. Cervone will likely stay in Europe for two to three years, Harris said.