Neil Schloss, One of Ford's Financial Saviors, Announces Retirement

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
neil schloss one of fords financial saviors announces retirement

As former treasurer of Ford Motor Company, Schloss probably doesn’t look at that dark period a decade ago with much fondness. It was a rough time, as he, Chief Financial Officer Lewis Booth, and CEO Alan Mulally (among others) attempted to guide their ship through a swirling financial storm.

It’s far calmer waters now, and the 36-year Ford veteran now finds himself serving as CFO of the automaker’s mobility arm. And it will stay that way until the end of December, at which point the 59-year-old Schloss hands over his hat and starts the cushy life of a retired executive.

Ford announced Schloss’ retirement Thursday morning. In a statement, CEO Jim Hackett said, “For almost four decades, Neil has played an important role in driving our business forward. It was appropriate that he finish his career at Ford by helping to start the businesses that will be core to our future.”

Schloss, who joined Ford Aerospace in 1982 before transferring to the automotive side of the company in 1990, started his climb up the company’s financial ladder in 1991. That year, he joined the treasurer’s office — an office he’d later head up for a decade. After a steady rise through the ranks, the automaker named Schloss treasurer in 2007, just as the company was preparing to save itself.

A few months earlier, newly minted CEO Mulally assembled the country’s largest banks in a New York conference room and asked for loan. By mortgaging all of his company’s assets, Mulally secured a $23.6 billion safety net for his flagging operation. The money soon came in handy. These loans, plus an aggressive cost cutting program that included the jettisoning of Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and eventually Volvo, brought the company through the recession intact.

That’s not to say it was a breeze for any of the players, least of all Schloss. In Bryce Hoffman’s book, American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, the author writes about when, in the early days of 2009, Ford had to tap into the last portion of its revolving line of credit just to ensure the cushion remained. The company’s 2008 financials were beyond awful, and the Lehman Brothers collapse had added to its woes. Still, Ford promised that it would continue investing in new product.

Schloss had spent a part of each day checking up on the banks underwriting the remainder of Ford’s loans. The company had promised not to use its line of credit to fund operating expenses, so, with cash at record low levels, Schloss was tasked with monitoring the company’s finances in real time, Hoffman wrote.

“Schloss and his staff were constantly reassessing how much money they were going to need for near-term operations and shifting whatever they could forward until sales began to rebound. Ford needed between $8 billion and $10 billion to keep the lights on and the factories humming. Not counting the money from the revolver, its bank balance dropped to right around $10 billion before sales and revenue began to rebound.”

Schloss’ boss, Ford Mobility President Nancy Klevorn, gave the longtime money man a heartfelt send-off, stating, “We’re fortunate that someone of Neil’s global experience and deep knowledge was able to guide us through this important foundational stage of our company’s transformation.”

Ford has not yet announced a successor.

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  • Mikey Mikey on Sep 20, 2018

    I will always credit Bill Ford Jr. Bill knew he was in over his head. He handed the reins, of the family business over to an outsider, and let his executives do their job. Such a move requires "big brass ones."

  • Inside Looking Out Inside Looking Out on Sep 20, 2018

    I recommend to read "American Icon" especially in light of what is going on today with Hackett's leadership. And read that after Taub's book "Taurus: The Making of the Car That Saved Ford". It gives you some perspective. Why every 20 years Ford needs to be rescued? With Hackett it looks like Ford is en route to the next rescue.

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