Does the Detroit emergency financial manager have what it takes to get the job done?
Reading this Reuters story, I am struck by how much of a "second teamer" the new financial manager of Detroit appears to be:
Kevyn Orr has many of the credentials needed to try to rescue Detroit from financial ruin, but in one key area he is untested.
The same could be said for his other big cases.
Orr, appointed by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder on Thursday as emergency manager for Detroit, is a partner at the law firm Jones Day. The big case of his career so far was to work on the rescue of Chrysler in 2009.
But in that case, Orr's role was secondary to lawyers higher up the food chain, which may have left him with an experience deficit as he takes on Detroit's troubles.
People who have worked with Orr, 54, describe him as thoughtful and a team player, with an inclusive approach to decision-making and a personality that naturally draws people to him.
As a graduate of the University of Michigan and as one of those who helped rescue Chrysler, one of Michigan's most prominent companies, he has strong ties to the state.
And, as a Democrat, an African-American and the head of the diversity task force at Jones Day, he filled some of the likely prerequisites for an emergency manager imposed on a predominantly black, heavily Democratic city by a white, Republican governor.
Of all his qualifications, the one singled out as most relevant is his work pushing through the sale of bankrupt Chrysler to Italian automaker Fiat.
In the early days of Chrysler's Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Orr meticulously drew testimony out of witnesses that would build the case for approving its sale and the closure of a quarter of its dealerships.
Throughout the case, he worked in the shadow of Corinne Ball, one of the stars of Jones Day's restructuring practice. Ball likely handled the sensitive issues of strategy and assigned specialized tasks to experts such as Orr.
Jones Day declined to comment on his role. Orr did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the past, Orr has downplayed the part he played. "My role as counsel to the company was focused on the legal doctrine, the law and the case law," he told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee afterward. "The political aspects I'll leave to another day and someone else."
Mr. Orr seems very capable but shouldn't Governor Snyder have chosen someone who has been involved in a city bankruptcy and had some kind of experience with urban planning?
Perhaps, Mr. Orr is the best candidate Snyder was able to entice into taking an impossible job.