Ford’s 65-year-old CEO says he has no plans to step down

WILMINGTON, Del. — Ford CEO Alan Mulally brushed back talk of retirement on Thursday, saying he hasn’t given any thought to stepping down now that the company is profitable.

WILMINGTON, Del. — Ford CEO Alan Mulally brushed back talk of retirement on Thursday, saying he hasn’t given any thought to stepping down now that the company is profitable.

“I haven’t thought about that at all,” Mulally, 65, said during a brief meeting with reporters after Ford Motor Co.’s annual shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Delaware.

Mulally’s retirement is the subject of frequent speculation because he turns 66 in August.

Mulally said he’s pleased to be with Ford and has no plans beyond that. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, who fired himself and hired Mulally as CEO in 2006, joked that there won’t be any discussion about Mulally leaving until 2025. The company doesn’t have a mandatory retirement age.

Mulally was hired away from Boeing Co. to rescue Ford, which was close to bankruptcy at the time. At Ford, he has cut brands, plants and staff and plowed the savings back into cars and trucks that are now hot sellers. Sales of the Fusion sedan, for example, are up 23 per cent through April, while sales of the revamped Explorer SUV have more than doubled.

Ford posted its eighth straight quarterly profit in the first quarter. The profit, of $2.6 billion, was Ford’s best first-quarter performance in 13 years.

Shareholder Robert Tenney of Sherburn, New York, congratulated Bill Ford for having the “vision and humility” to turn over the CEO job to Mulally.

Mulally has been rewarded for his success. In 2010, he received a pay package worth $26.5 million, up 48 per cent from the year before. That included a base salary of $1.4 million and stock and option awards valued at nearly $15 million.

According to an AP analysis for Standard & Poor’s 500 companies, Mulally ranked ninth among the top 50 highest-paid CEOs in 2010.

Mulally’s pay has angered United Auto Workers members, who agreed to benefit and wage cuts during the recession to help struggling Ford.

Earlier this spring, UAW President Bob King called Mulally’s pay level “morally wrong.” Auto workers are scheduled to vote on a new contract with Ford this fall.

Asked about his compensation, as well as that of unionized employees, Mulally said Thursday that efforts to tie everyone’s compensation to the company’s performance is “absolutely the right direction” to go. He said everyone associated with the company has worked hard to help it grow.

None of the 100 shareholders at the meeting mentioned Mulally’s pay. The annual meeting, which lasted just over an hour, was the shortest on record, the company said.

A vote to take away some of the Ford family’s control of the company failed. The family currently has 40-per cent voting control because of a two-tier share structure that gives their shares more value.

The company opposed the idea, but proponents noted that support for it is growing. Thirty-two per cent of shareholders voted for it, up from 29 per cent last year.

Ford shares rose 11 cents to close at $15.26 Thursday. That is nearly double their price from when Mulally became CEO.

Ford shares fell as low as $1.43 in 2008, when it was unclear whether the company would file for bankruptcy or seek federal aid. Ford did neither. The stock price has since risen steadily, trading as high as $18.97 earlier this year.

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Auto Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report from Detroit.

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