Bob Lutz -- car nut, airplane collector, marketing bigwig -- thought he might ease into the cruising lane after retiring from General Motors last summer. But the brash, silver-haired former executive has been dragged back into the fray, and he'll soon be sitting front and center at one of the hottest companies on Planet Earth: Facebook.
Until last week, Lutz was living a relatively quiet life as an Equity Analyst for WestLB AG, when the call came through -- from Mark Zuckerberg himself. The two had never met before, but after less than half an hour of conversation, Zuckerberg persuaded Lutz to become Facebook's "automotive liaison".
What, exactly, that means, is up for debate. Reached at his home yesterday, Lutz said lightheartedly, "I think they just want me to rustle some ad dollars from my contacts in the industry.... Either that, or teach 'em how to drive." His gravelly laugh cut through the phone line like a barrage of bullets.
That last quip may not be entirely a joke. At 79, Lutz is three or four times the age of many Facebook employees, and he expressed some concern about the shift in corporate culture. "I'm used to working in the automotive sector with guys like me, guys my own age. You know, guys. This is a young company filled with young employees, men and women, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't going to be a challenge. I mean, will anyone in the secretarial pool know how to make a good cup of Sanka?"
Earlier today, Zuckerberg released a statement praising Lutz's accomplishments: "Bob and I are new to one another, but after speaking with him for 30 minutes, I knew we were soulmates. I come from a world of IMs and "likes" and sharing, and he comes from an environment of face-to-face contacts, handshakes, and deal-making over Harvey Wallbangers. We're like two pieces of the same corporate puzzle."
Zuckerberg continued: "The clincher to me was that Bob shoots from the hip, and he's not afraid to call it out -- no boundaries, no worries about privacy at all. I like that in a man. He even friended me the day after our chat. You know, after we showed him how to set up a Facebook account."
Said Lutz: "Sounds kinda fruity to me."
More as the story develops.
P.S. April Fools.