Former Ford CEO Mark Fields fashioned himself an agent of change, promising to transform a Rust Belt auto manufacturer into a high-tech "mobility company." But three years after taking the helm, Fields has been tripped up by changes beyond his own control.
The 56-year-old New York native was summarily sent out to pasture, Ford announced Monday, replaced by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett. That, along with a series of other high-level management moves, appears to have been months in the making, reflecting the growing frustration among major investors — including the founding Ford family — over weak sales, declining earnings and a stock price down 40 percent since Fields stepped into the CEO role in July 2014.
"Mark had a tremendous career at Ford and had done great things," Chairman Bill Ford Jr., the grandson of company founder Henry Ford, said during a Monday morning news conference. "He put us in a great position. I'm very thankful to Mark. But this is a time of great change and fortunately we have a transformational leader," Ford said, referring to new CEO Hackett.
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Officially, Fields tendered his resignation last Friday, "after a discussion he and I had," Chairman Ford said during a subsequent interview on CNBC. But the speed with which a successor was named suggested to industry observers it was only a matter of time, and a question of whether Fields, a 28-year Ford veteran, would jump or be pushed.