A Good Run: Ford COO Mark Fields Will Replace CEO Alan Mulally

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A brief but significant tweet from Bloomberg announced that Ford Motor Co. has chosen current Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields to be the replacement for current CEO Alan Mulally once he moves on. Fields has been with Ford for the past 25 years, and in the COO slot since 2012.

Sources told Bloomberg that the company would soon provide details regarding Mulally’s departure from the company, which has been heavily speculated on since Microsoft  began courting him in the wake of former CEO Steve Ballmer’s stepping down. After several weeks of uncertainty, Mulally finally said that he would remain at Ford, but for how long was anyone’s guess, though it was thought to be before the end of this year.

Fields, who is 53, has been the right-hand man for Mulally, who is widely credited as saving Ford and initiating an incredible turnaround for the company. Mulally joined Ford after a stint at Boeing in 2006 and immediately negotiated a $23 billion loan that allowed the company to navigate around the financial recession without a hand from the federal government. His One Ford plan has seen sales soar and costs reduce.

“A lot of great CEOs leave and then there’s chaos behind them,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford, great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, said on April 16 during an interview with Bloomberg TV. “Alan and I have talked about that — the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.”

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“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, to Bloomberg. “For competitive reasons, we don’t discuss our succession plans externally.”

Under Mulally’s command, investments in China rose, Lincoln received a $1 billion check for a makeover (which is still underway), the F-Series pickups maintained their best-selling status, and the company resumed and increased its dividend (it was halted in 2006) twice since 2012.

Perhaps as notable as Mulally’s departure is the ease at which it appears to be happening. Ford doesn’t exactly boast a history of smooth transitions, with experiences including Bill Ford’s firing of CEO Jacques Nasser in 2001 and Henry Ford II ejecting Lee Iacocca in 1978. Bill Ford replaced himself as CEO by hiring Mulally in 2006, when the company faced record losses.

Needless to say, Ford is now on much stronger footing, which can be owed largely to Mulally’s strategic implementations and a finger on the pulse of a new generation of automotive consumers.