GM Attorney Gets Hughes Aircraft Post

John J. Higgins was named as Hughes Aircraft vice president and general counsel, following the recent management shake-up that resulted in the sudden retirements of Hughes Chief Executive Albert Wheelon and others.

Higgins is former assistant general counsel of General Motors and a 29-year veteran of GM's legal staff--a background that appears to further reinforce the growing involvement of GM in its Hughes subsidiary.

GM has been increasingly asserting its will on the various staff functions at Hughes, taking in such areas as legal, finance, advertising and administration. "They think only GM knows how to run a corporation," one insider said.

Hughes sources said the departure of Wheelon was orchestrated by GM attorneys, who have wanted to extend their bureaucratic domain to Hughes ever since GM acquired the Los Angeles-based aerospace firm.

Higgins replaces Richard F. Alden, who recently retired as Hughes vice chairman amid an executive office battle that also resulted in Wheelon's departure. Higgins joined GM in New York in January, 1959. He moved to GM's Detroit office in July, 1981.

As assistant general counsel, he was in charge of the GM legal staff's finance, insurance and creditors rights practice group. A native of Yonkers, N.Y., Higgins, 54, received a bachelor's degree in English from Siena College and a law degree from Fordham University School of Law in 1958.

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