Two of Ford Motor Co.'s top executives are set to retire in April, but CEO Alan Mulally brushed back speculation of his own retirement.
Ford said that Lewis Booth, its executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Derrick Kuzak, its group vice president of global product development, would retire effective April 1. Both were with the company for more than 30 years.
Mulally, 66, has been Ford's president and CEO since 2006. He said in a conference call Thursday discussing the changes that he had no plans to retire, despite rumors of plans to exit by the end of 2013.
I read the news release very carefully and I do not find my name in it, Mulally said. I have no plans to retire and I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to serve Ford.
Bob Shanks, Ford's controller, will take over Booth's positions as executive vice president and CFO. Raj Nair, the vice president of engineering and global product development, will succeed Kuzak.
Mulally was also asked about his own successor, and speculation that it could be either Mark Fields, Ford's current president of the America's, or Joe Hinrichs, who is the company's chief of Asian and African operations.
I have read that speculation also and as you know we don't comment on speculation, Mulally said on the conference call. Our plan at Ford is to have a very strong succession plan for every position, including my own.
Kuzak has been with Ford since 1978, when he began his career as a research engineer. Mulally credited him with defining the vehicle DNAs of Ford and Lincoln, transforming Ford's global product development system, platform consolidation across key vehicle segments, and leading the company charge to better quality and more fuel efficiency.
Nair joined Ford in 1987 as a body and assembly launch engineer, and he has gone on to hold multiple leadership positions in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Raj is the right leader to build on what has been accomplished to date, Mulally said. He understands the potential of moving to global platforms.
They'll replace two executives that were instrumental to Ford's return to profitability. Under Mulally, the company that flailed to stay afloat amid the economic downturn has seen three consecutive years of profitability. In January, Ford reported an 11th straight profitable quarter.
Booth, especially, aided that recovery. He was tapped as CFO just a week after the Lehman Brothers collapse in 2008, and he moved to shore up Ford's liquidity and reduce debt, Ford said.
Ford also announced Thursday that former Utah Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman will serve on its board of directors. The board also includes Richard Gephardt, a former U.S. House of Representatives majority leader and a Democratic presidential candidate in 1988 and 2004.