General Motors has hired longtime Delta Air Lines CFO Paul Jacobson as its new CFO, the company announced.
Jacobson, 48, will leave Delta, where he has led finance since 2012, on November 15. In February, he announced his intent to retire, but in April, he walked back that news, saying he would remain with the company to help it navigate the pandemic.
John Stapleton, CFO of GM North America, has been serving as interim CFO since Dhivya Suryavedara departed in August. He will remain in that role until Jacobson steps in on December 1, after which point he will return to North America CFO.
While the auto industry has largely recovered from the worst of the pandemic-induced losses, the airline industry, including Delta, still faces "depressed demand for air travel and [is] burning through millions of dollars a day," a Wall Street Journal report said. Jacobson is moving from air to auto at a particularly difficult juncture. In the beginning of the pandemic, GM burned through $9 billion in cash as a result of its empty factories.
But as 2020 has progressed, demand for cars rebounded, nearly to pre-pandemic levels. Even so, GM and its competitors are stuck between investing in potentially explosive growth categories, including electric and driverless cars, alongside its traditional business model, centered on gas-powered cars.
"GM's vision is compelling," Jacobson said in a statement. "They are executing an historic technology shift to electrification from a position of strength."
"Paul is a great addition to the GM senior leadership team and is dedicated to leading the company for the benefit of all stakeholders," CEO Mary Barra said in a statement. "We share a commitment to teamwork and inclusion as we work toward our vision of a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion while delivering a best-in-class customer experience, operational and financial excellence, and disciplined capital allocation."
Barra is betting on battery-powered vehicles, initiating a $20 billion spend in the category over the next several years, the Journal reported.
While Delta conducts a global search for its next CFO, CEO Ed Bastian wrote in a memo to employees, Gary Chase, senior vice president of business development and financial planning, and Bill Carroll, senior vice president of finance and controller, will share interim CFO duties.
"Paul has chosen to stay with Delta not only as we rebuild, but for many years to come as we continue our climb," Bastian wrote in an April memo.
Amid the pandemic, Jacobson, who joined Delta in 1997, has raised billions of dollars in new funding through bond sales and has tapped additional capital through Delta’s frequent-flier program, the Journal said.
He has also led the airline in various capacities through a time span including the September 11 attacks, Delta’s 2008 merger with Northwest Airlines, the Great Recession, and, most recently, the pandemic.
Under Jacobson’s leadership, Delta had paid down nearly $10 billion in debt before 2020, leaving it with a stronger balance sheet than most airlines. He helped the company emerge from its 2007 bankruptcy while serving as senior vice president and treasurer between 2005 and 2012.
"My heart is with the people of Delta," he wrote in the April memo announcing his intent to stay on board.