Ford’s board likely to hash CEO plans

Issue is when Mulally leaves


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — This week directors of Ford Motor Co. will probably discuss the career plans of Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally, who is being considered for the top job at Microsoft Corp., according to a person familiar with the board’s thinking. The board is to meet this week in Dearborn, Mich.

The matter will probably be covered informally over dinner Wednesday or before presentations begin on Thursday, said the person, who asked not to be identified because board gatherings are private.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Mr. Mulally, and Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields — the heir apparent to the top Ford job — all have reiterated Ford’s plan for no change at the top through 2014. Getting clear direction from the CEO will be crucial to the board’s efforts to pull off a smooth switch to a post-Mulally era, whenever he leaves. Ford’s history of transitions is bumpy.

“This is not something that can be just left hanging,” said Maryann Keller, an auto-industry consultant who has served on boards. “If there’s going to be a new leader for Ford, then that new leader has to be appointed and named quickly.”

In August Steve Ballmer announced he would retire within a year as Microsoft CEO. Its board has discussed as CEO candidates: Mr. Mulally, 68, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft business development and evangelism chief Tony Bates, and Paul Maritz, a former Microsoft No. 3 executive, according to people with knowledge of the matter.