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Ford to tap chief operating officer Fields as CEO's successor

| Tuesday, April 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Ford Motor Co., the nation's second-largest automaker, will soon name Mark Fields its next chief executive officer and reveal when CEO Alan Mulally will retire from the company he is credited with saving, according to two people familiar with the pending announcement.

Mulally, 68, will step down before the end of the year and be succeeded by Fields, 53, who is chief operating officer, according to the people, who asked not to be identified as having revealed internal plans. The Dearborn, Mich.-based company could announce the moves as soon as May 1, the people said.

The transition will bring an end to a storied chapter in Ford's history, in which the automaker narrowly avoided bankruptcy thanks to Mulally's management and a bet-the-business $23 billion loan. Mulally signed off on the loan shortly after arriving from Boeing Co. in 2006 and turned around the automaker by slashing costs and overhauling its lineup with stylish, fuel-efficient models that have won over a new generation of drivers.

Ford plans to make this announcement now to provide clarity on its leadership and an orderly transition of power, the people said. Fields, a 25-year veteran of Ford, emerged as Mulally's likely successor when he was promoted to COO in December 2012.

“There were these rumblings about how long Mulally was going to stay, and that caused a distraction,” said Karl Brauer, senior analyst with auto researcher Kelley Blue Book. “They decided, ‘We're not going to wait until everybody's jabbing them about what's going on at Ford.' ”

Mulally will not fade from view in retirement to pursue his passions for golf and tennis, the people said. Rather, he is lining up a post-Ford position that will keep him involved in corporate governance or business policy, they said.

Last year, Microsoft Corp. considered Mulally as its next CEO until the auto executive took himself out of the running in January.

Fields was tabbed to become Ford's No. 2 executive after leading the automaker's North American operations from deep losses to record profits.

Under Mulally and Fields, Ford managed to avoid the bailouts and bankruptcies that befell General Motors and Chrysler.

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