Ford Motor Company shook up its senior management Monday, naming Jim Hackett as its new chief executive officer. Hackett succeeds Mark Fields, who took over for Alan Mulally in 2014. Under Fields, Ford posted a record pretax profit in 2015. But as 2017 unfolded, the company was making less money. Its first quarter profit was 35 percent less than it was in 2016. In addition, the company’s stock price fell $7 per share from July 2014 to May 17, 2017.
Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford thanked Fields for his 28 years of service to the company, and says Hackett is the type of leader he wants. Ford called Hackett a visionary who showed forward thinking as the head of Steelcase Inc. for 25 years.
“Jim took a company that defined itself as a furniture maker, and said, ‘no, let’s imagine the future of the workplace. Let’s imagine how people are going to work and want to work in the future and then let’s build our company around that,’” Ford says.
Hackett says one of his goals is to develop a strategy to tackle complex problems quickly.
“If you thought of strategy as a Rubik’s Cube, it’s not just solving one side, there’s lots of sides to the problem,” Hackett says. “I’m trying to design a team that’s a little closer to Bill and I (sic), that allows us to make decisions very clearly for the organization.”
Hackett was the interim athletic director at the University of Michigan from 2014 to 2016. Bill Ford says that experience is relevant because Hackett took over a program that was in turmoil and calmed things down. Hackett’s most significant moves at Michigan were landing a new merchandising contract with Nike and hiring Jim Harbaugh as the head football coach.
Fields will retire from Ford, but Paul Eisenstein, publisher of The Detroit Bureau, tells WDET’s Pat Batcheller he doubts retirement is what Fields had in mind.
“If anything, the board and Mr. Ford himself are increasingly frustrated that nothing they’re doing seems to be generating any response from the stock market and not much movement in the auto market,” Eisenstein says. “So they thought it was time to have a change.”
Click on the audio player to hear Paul Eisenstein’s conversation with WDET’s Pat Batcheller.