News Column

Ford shareholder meeting pays tribute to outgoing CEO Alan Mulally

May 8, 2014

By Alisa Priddle, Detroit Free Press

May 08--What little drama Ford's annual shareholder might have had was pre-empted by last week's announcement that CEO Alan Mulally steps down July 1.

The 59th annual meeting, held Thursday morning in Wilmington, Del., attracted investors eager to thank and praise the retiring Mulally who joined Ford in 2006 and oversaw a successful turnaround and restructuring. Mark Fields, currently Ford chief operating officer, will succeed him.

-- Tom Walsh: Mark Fields must control his calendar or get sucked into a time warp

"Alan somehow 'thank you' doesn't seem adequate but thank you," said Executive Chairman Bill Ford at what was Mulally's last shareholder meeting for the automaker.

One investor called for a standing ovation that brought everyone to their feet and others said they traveled to Wilmington for the chance to thank Mulally personally for his work at Ford.

The meeting lasted about 75 minutes during which shareholders approved the slate of 16 current board members and voted down proposals that would give owners of common stock more voting power and the ability to call special meetings.

While the call to eliminate the Class B shares held by the Ford family failed yet again, 33.8% of votes cast were in favor of ending the dual-status structure, which protects the Fords' 40% control. That is the highest margin to date for a proposal that is raised every year. Last year 33.4% voted to have only one class of shares.

Bill Ford said he wishes the stock price was higher, but said the fundamentals are in place for it be worth more. Ford also thanked shareholders for allowing the company "to avoid the pitfalls of short term thinking."

When a shareholder suggested Bill Ford was underpaid for his efforts, the executive chairman said, "I'm well taken care of, thank you." Bill Ford's 2013 compensation package was $12 million, including a $2-million salary.

A couple shareholders had questions about attempts to regenerate the Lincoln brand.

Mulally reminded shareholders that eight years ago Ford was a house of many brands and the automaker divested all but Ford and Lincoln.

Lincoln's revival will include the introduction of five models in China by 2016, Fields said, and the introduction of the next-generation full-size MKS sedan will be "sooner rather than later."

The meeting began with a tribute to Bill Ford's late father: William Clay Ford Jr., who served the company and community for almost six decades before his death in March.

Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle


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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)

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