Ford Motor Co. will soon name Mark Fields its next chief executive and reveal when current CEO Alan Mulally will retire from the company he is credited with saving, according to two people familiar with the pending announcement.
Mulally, 68, will step down before the end of the year and be succeeded by Fields, 53, now chief operating officer, according to the people, who asked not to be identified revealing internal plans. The Dearborn, Mich., company may announce the moves as soon as May 1, the people said.
The transition will bring an end to a storied chapter in Ford's history, in which the automaker narrowly avoided bankruptcy because of Mulally's management and a bet-the-business $23-billion loan. Mulally signed off on the loan shortly after arriving from Boeing Co. in 2006 and turned around the automaker by slashing costs and overhauling its lineup with stylish, fuel-efficient models that have won over a new generation of drivers.
"A lot of great CEOs leave and then there's chaos behind them," Executive Chairman Bill Ford, great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, said this month. "Alan and I have talked about that — the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition."
Ford is planning to make this announcement now to provide clarity on its leadership and an orderly transition of power, the people said. Fields emerged as Mulally's likely successor when he was promoted to COO in December 2012. Ford had said that Mulally would stay through 2014.
"There were these rumblings about how long Mulally was going to stay, and that caused a distraction," said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with auto researcher Kelley Blue Book. "They decided, 'We're not going to wait until everybody's jabbing them about what's going on at Ford.' They're taking control of the situation and saying, 'Mulally is leaving and Fields is coming in.'"
Mulally will not fade from view in retirement to pursue his passions for golf and tennis, the people said. Rather, he is lining up a post-Ford position that will keep him involved in corporate governance or business policy, they said. Last year, Microsoft Corp. considered Mulally as its next CEO until the auto executive took himself out of the running in January.
Fields, a 25-year veteran of Ford, was tapped to become Ford's No. 2 executive after leading the automaker's North American operations from deep losses to record profits.
"We take succession planning very seriously, and we have succession plans in place for each of our key leadership positions," said Susan Krusel, a Ford spokeswoman. "For competitive reasons, we don't discuss our succession plans externally."
Ford shares slipped 2 cents, or 0.1%, to $15.98.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times