Mulally to hand over Ford CEO job earlier than expected

Thu May 1, 2014 2:14pm EDT
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By Ben Klayman

DEARBORN, Michigan (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co on Thursday made official what investors and analysts had been waiting for - Chief Executive Alan Mulally this summer will pass the baton of leadership to Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, six months earlier than expected.

The 68-year-old Mulally is credited with transforming the No. 2 U.S. automaker from a money-loser to a company that expects to realize a pretax profit of up to $8 billion this year after joining in 2006 from Boeing Co.

Mulally, who was in the running for the top job at Microsoft Corp late last year, did not say what was next for him. Ford's CEO change takes effect on July 1.

The ascension of 53-year-old Fields as the next CEO, which the company's board approved on Wednesday, was expected, but the timing had been unclear. Mulally said the transition was moved up from year-end because he felt the team and Fields were ready.

Fields, who promised to hew to his predecessor's strategy, said his current COO position would not be filled when the CEO change occurs, adding in a later interview that the management team structure without that position was "appropriate."

When asked whether he considered promoting Joe Hinrichs, president of the Americas and an executive perceived by many in the auto industry as a rising star, Fields told Reuters that Hinrichs had a "really big job now running North America. He's very talented and he's got a bright future."

Mulally said in a later interview that he had no concerns that Hinrichs would leave as he is intimately involved in setting the company's strategy.

Fields also said he would stay in touch with Mulally even though he will leave the company board. Fields pointed out that Mulally remains a Ford shareholder. Asked why he was not remaining on Ford's board, Mulally said it was the right time for him to leave and turn it over to the next team.   Continued...

Ford Motor CEO and President Alan Mulally (L) stands with Executive Chairman Bill Ford (C) and COO Mark Fields after announcing Fields will replace Mulally as CEO on July 1 during a news conference in Dearborn, Michigan May 1, 2014. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook