Sears' Lampert met Ford's Mulally for turnaround advice

Fri Jun 6, 2014 11:17am EDT
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By Nadia Damouni

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sears Holdings Corp's controlling shareholder Eddie Lampert met with Ford Motor Co (F.N: Quote) CEO Alan Mulally earlier this year to seek advice on how to turn around the ailing retailer, two sources familiar with the matter said.

One of the sources said that Mulally, who is due to retire from Ford in July, was left with the impression that Lampert was gauging whether Mulally might be open to the possibility of becoming Sears' next CEO. The second source said Lampert, who is currently Sears' chairman and CEO, did not offer Mulally a job and there is no search process underway for a new CEO.

Lampert, who is a billionaire hedge fund manager, flew to Dearborn, Michigan, where Ford is headquartered, in either February or March to meet Mulally, the sources said.

In the meeting, Lampert asked Mulally about how he had turned around Ford and built an effective management structure at the No. 2 U.S. automaker, the sources said.

Sears (SHLD.O: Quote) spokesman Howard Riefs declined to comment. Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel said Mulally, 68, has not decided what to do after leaving Ford.

When asked about a move to Sears, Mulally said in an interview on CNBC television on Friday, "I am glad to share the Ford story because there are a lot of lessons learned there."

He added, "When I graduate on July 1st, I'm going to really think about where I am going to serve next."

Sears operates 1,900 Sears and Kmart discount chain stores in the United States. It was once the largest U.S. retailer by revenue, but has seen sales weaken consistently over recent years in the face of stiff competition from brick-and-mortar rivals such as Target Corp (TGT.N: Quote), Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N: Quote) and Home Depot Inc (HD.N: Quote), as well as online retailers like Inc (AMZN.O: Quote).   Continued...

Ford Motor Co, President and CEO Alan Mulally  acknowledges the audience during a press conference At Ford World Headquarters to announce his retirement from Ford effective July 1, in Dearborn, Michigan May 1, 2014.    REUTERS/Rebecca Cook