GM exec to go

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The top advertising executive at General Motors Corp., John Middlebrook, is expected to announce his retirement in the coming weeks, according to executives close to the carmaker and an insider, who asked not to be named. His expected departure is part of a group of about a dozen retirements of undisclosed high-up, longtimers at GM, the executives said.

Mr. Middlebrook, 60, is VP-general manager of GM advertising and corporate marketing as well as general manager of vehicle brand marketing in North America. The Lansing, Mich., native joined the auto giant in 1959 at Oldsmobile.

His successor is said to be John Smith, the VP-general manager in charge of GM's Service Parts Operations who moved from general manager of Cadillac. He's said to be a favorite of GM Chairman Jack Smith (no relation). A GM spokesman denied the retirements. "There are no plans for a 12-person mass retirement at senior levels at this company," he said. "There are retirements coming up. I know of a handful coming in the next 12 months," including the already-announced first-quarter 2002 departure of Tom Davis, group VP-product development and a 37-year GM employee. But he said Mr. Middlebrook isn't among the group. The spokesman also named Wayne Cherry, VP-design, who will leave between now and next September, when he turns 65.

Like Detroit's other carmakers, GM has had a tough year. U.S. vehicle sales slipped by 6.7% through July to 2.8 million units vs. a year ago, according to Automotive News. Although this has been generally a rough year for the industry overall in the wake of last year's record sales, several Japanese transplants and European makers are enjoying sales upticks.

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