* GM Europe chief Forster to leave after Opel reversal
* GM's Nick Reilly set to lead Opel overhaul-source
* GM's Lutz to chair Opel supervisory board-source
(Recasts with GM confirmation)
By Christiaan Hetzner and Angelika Gruber
FRANKFURT, Nov 6 General Motors Co [GM.UL] said
on Friday the head of its European operations, Carl-Peter
Forster, is leaving, three days after the automaker's decision
to scrap a planned sale of its Opel unit.
Forster, the son of a German diplomat and a former BMW
(BMWG.DE) executive, had been widely expected to run the
independent Opel that would have been split from GM in the sale
of a controlling Opel stake to a Russian-backed group led by
Canadian auto parts company Magna International Inc MGa.TO
Forster's departure marks the first high-profile exit at
Opel since GM's board reversed course and said the automaker
would keep the European unit and raise funds to restructure
Opel on its own.
That decision touched off a storm of protests in Germany,
where Magna had been seen as the best chance to preserve jobs.
Nick Reilly, current head of GM's international operations,
is set to lead GM's looming reorganization of Opel, a person
briefed on the plan said.
Reilly, a Briton, had worked as sales and marketing chief
for GM Europe before moving to Asia to run GM operations there.
His appointment was seen as a temporary move, the person said.
Meanwhile, Bob Lutz, who agreed to defer retirement earlier
this year to head GM's global marketing efforts, will become
chairman of the Opel supervisory board, a second person said.
Lutz, 77, already sits on the Opel board and will maintain
his current management responsibilities, said the person, who
asked not to be named because the move has not been announced.
GM declined to comment on those moves.
Forster had spoken out in favor of the Magna deal just days
before the board met to approve the sale in mid-September,
straining relations with senior executives in Detroit.
"Carl-Peter Forster nailed his colors to the mast of
Magna," said an Opel labor representative who asked not to be
GM Chief Executive Fritz Henderson said in a statement that
it has begun an external search for Forster's replacement. The
company said no other changes to the Opel management team are
Shares of Magna have surged, with investors welcoming a
renewed focus on its core parts business and with a surprise
quarterly profit. The stock has gained 25 percent since
Tuesday, when GM's board abandoned the Opel sale plan.
GM also said it would brief European governments next week
on its plan to restructure Opel and to raise 3 billion euros
from governments in countries with Opel factories.
The goal is to cut fixed costs at Opel by 30 percent -- in
part by chopping Opel's staff of 50,000 by a fifth -- but
details are scarce.
"There are signals from the company that GM will explain
its plans next week. The German government is waiting for this
explanation and will then evaluate it," German government
spokesman Christoph Steegmans said in Berlin.
Separately, the economy minister from the state of
Thuringia told Reuters that Free Democrat politician Dirk
Pfeil, a critic of the Magna deal, is being replaced on the
trust that has overseen Opel since GM's financial crisis.
The minister, Matthias Machnig, said the four states with
Opel sites had agreed that Pfeil needed to go because he was
not representing their interests.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested the
Opel Trust -- not GM -- should have final say on the sale, but
the trust had said it did not need to approve GM's decision.
The trust, which controls a 65 percent stake in Opel, will
dissolve once GM repays to Germany the rest of a 1.5 billion
euro bridge loan due by the end of the month.
(Additional reporting by Kevin Krolicki in Detroit, editing by