Is Bill Ford Strapped for Cash?
Crazy Henry’s heirs and descendants own enough “special class B” stock to control 40 percent of the automaker’s shareholder votes. Translation: Ford owns Ford. While the Ford family isn’t down to its last $100m, the automaker’s plummeting fortunes must be more than slightly worrying. The last time Fortune checked-in with Ford family finances– April ’07– the Blue Oval Boyz and Girlz lost a cool (if paper) $581m. This after Ford suspended payments (September ’06). The last time TTAC checked-in with Bill Ford’s wallet, the FoMoCo Chairman had “modified” his pledge not to take a dime from his employer until it was back in black (a 2008 then 2009 prophecy that’s long since been abandoned). Ford (the failed CEO) agreed to defer (rather than forgo) the compensation until Ford (the failing company) returned to profitability. As the undisclosed bounty piles up, Billy may have something of a liquidity problem. Reuters reports that he’s unloaded one million shares of Ford common stock [not class B] to pay down debt that he took on to exercise options and acquire stock in the automaker in 2004 and 2005. “Ford sold the shares at an average weighted sale price of $5.05 on Thursday and continues to hold more than 5.3 million shares of common stock in the automaker, according to a filing on Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” All credit to Bill for investing in his own optimism. But here’s a question: when Chrysler and GM file for C11, will Ford follow suit? If so, it will mean the end of Ford family control.
Geeber on Sep 22, 2008Mark MacInnis: Iacocca wanted a flatter, more graceful front-end face. Il Duece was so pissed at Lido, that he insisted upon the 8 inch proboscis extension on the front grill and hood. So, Hank’s chops notwithstanding, his ego gave Ford one of the most misbegotten and ugliest vehicles they ever made, as well as denying FoMoCo the services of arguably one of the most capable auto executives in the industry’s history. The 1970 Thunderbird's ugly nose was the result of Bunkie Knudsen's influence. The nose on the 1970 Thunderbird is still referred to as the "Bunkie Beak" for that reason. Iacocca undermined Knudsen, who had been personally recruited from GM by Henry Ford II, and that was one big reason that he soured on Iacocca. Knudsen, who had led Pontiac from near-oblivion to third place in sales during the late 1950s and early 1960s, was supposed to bring all of those GM secrets to Ford. Iacocca went from success to success in the 1960s - the Mustang, the Cougar, the Continental Mark III and the Mercury Marquis - but he was ill-equipped to handle the challenges of the 1970s, namely declining quality, rising sales of imports and the need to meet government emission and safety standards. Iacocca was ineffective in improving Ford's quality during the 1970s, and his response to the imports - the Pinto - was rushed to market and too flimsy, thanks to his insistence that price and weight be kept low. He also rushed the Pinto's development. All of these factors led to the infamous fuel-tank fiasco that literally burst into flames during the mid-1970s and gave Ford a huge black eye. A big, unspoken reason for Henry Ford II firing Iacocca was the entire Pinto fiasco. Iacocca was a good MARKETING and SALES person, but the challenges of the 1970s required a different set of talents, and Henry Ford II realized this. It's noteworthy that his rescue of Chrysler revolved around his flair for salesmanship; I doubt that anyone will say that he really improved either the cars or quality during his tenure at Chrysler. As for William Clay Ford, Jr. - he was smart enough to realize that he needed an outsider to change Ford's corporate culture, and he took the initiative to recruit him. And he implemented the programs that have helped improve Ford's quality (Mullaly hasn't been around long enough to affect Ford's quality one way or another). Give William Clay Ford, Jr., credit for realizing that Ford's corporate culture was killing the company, and bringing in an outsider to change it. Contrast this with Wagoner of GM, who brought in Lutz to improve the cars, but really hasn't done all that much to change GM's corporate culture.
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