Ford’s Hero Mulally to Depart

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Mark Fields was anointed to be the next CEO at Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) back in September 2012, when he was named the company’s COO. The only thing missing was a press release with a departure date for current CEO Alan Mulally.

A report at Bloomberg News cites people who asked not to be identified saying that the 68-year old Mulally will step down before the end of this year. Mulally has been credited with turning the automaker around, but his flirtation with Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) late last year was not well received by some who saw it as a distraction from Ford’s business.

In some versions of recent history, Mulally almost miraculously saved Ford from the effects of the recession and drop in market share suffered by other American automakers in 2009. Ford’s share price proves his value — it is up more than 200% in the past five years. His reputation as one of the great car executives of the past several decades remains intact even though the share price has dropped about 14% from its peak of $18.65 in late 2011. An even bigger moment may have come earlier when Mulally signed off on a $23 billion loan in 2006 which became the basis for the turnaround.

Like his soon-to-be-peer Mary Barra at General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM), Fields has a long history at Ford, and was head of the company’s North American operations until his elevation to COO.

Ford’s shares are down about 0.1% in late afternoon trading Monday at $15.98 in a 52-week range of $12.80 to $18.02.