Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) released its outlook for 2014 Wednesday. Conspicuously absent from the announcement was any mention of CEO Alan Mulally, who has been in the news most often recently as a leading candidate to take over the reins at Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT). CFO Bob Shanks is the only company executive mentioned or quoted in the announcement.
At the very least, Mulally’s absence indicates that all the speculation swirling around the appointment of a new CEO at Microsoft is a distraction for Ford and the company wants to keep the distraction at a minimum. No decision is expected from Microsoft until sometime early next year, and the company is certainly in no big hurry to name a replacement for Steve Ballmer.
The lack of any reference to Mulally also may indicate that all the protestations from him and from Ford that he would stay through next year have been nothing but smoke and that either he is going to get the Microsoft job or Ford is getting ready to buy him out. Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. may just have decided that enough is enough and that the time has come to have a CEO whose focus is entirely on Ford and its cars.
Mulally almost miraculously saved Ford from the effects of the recession and retreat in market share suffered by other American automakers in 2009. Ford’s share price proves his value — it is up more than 500% in the past five years. His reputation as one of the great car executives of the past several decades is intact, and it will remain so. However, Mulally was paid tens of millions of dollars for his efforts, the turnaround is done, and with it the need for Mulally to run Ford.
Ford shares were trading down more than 5% in the first half-hour Wednesday, at $15.83 in a 52-week range of $11.47 to $18.02.