Sales Chief Mark LaNeve Leaves GM

Company's Top Ad Exec Will Take on a Position Outside Auto Industry

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DETROIT ( -- Mark LaNeve, General Motors Corp.'s top ad executive in North America, is leaving the company, President-CEO Fritz Henderson said today in a conference call with reporters and analysts. Mr. LaNeve, 50, will join another undisclosed company outside the auto industry.

Mark LaNeve
Mark LaNeve
Mr. LaNeve did not return an e-mail for comment.

The first sign that his future at GM was uncertain came this summer after GM exited bankruptcy. The company in July unceremoniously moved him to VP-sales from VP-sales, service and marketing in North America, a post he had held for four years. The automaker then gave Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who had been scheduled to retire, responsibility for all brand marketing, advertising, communications and customer relations.

The Beaver Falls, Pa., native joined the automaker in 1981 as a senior consumer-service adviser for Cadillac. He spent the bulk of his early career handling that luxury brand in various marketing and sales jobs that included merchandising director and director-advertising and market planning. Mr. LaNeve moved to Pontiac in the fall of 1995 as Bonneville brand manager.

He left GM in 1997 to join Volvo Cars North America as VP-marketing, telling Advertising Age at the time that the job would give him the chance to manage a brand at a high level. "I wouldn't get to do that at GM. Even if I did, it would take a long time," he said then. Three years later, Volvo promoted him to president-CEO.

He returned to GM in 2001 as general marketing manager of Cadillac after Ford acquired Volvo, and oversaw Cadillac's resurgence with the launch of new models under a new design direction and the successful "Break Through" ad campaign that featured the music of Led Zeppelin. In fall 2004, GM promoted Mr. LaNeve to North American VP-marketing and advertising, and he took the sales, service and marketing post the following year.

Mr. LaNeve, an All-American linebacker at the University of Virginia, has been known to compare advertising and business to athletics. He told Advertising Age several years ago: "To me, marketing is a sport, so you've got to figure out what your assets are, how to deploy them and what the competition has. There's no tried-and-true formula."

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