$98m payday for Ford's turnaround twosome

Alan Mulally and Bill Ford - CEO and chairman of Ford respectively - have received nearly $100m between them for saving the Blue Oval.

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The bumper payday is down to our old friends share options – Mullally and Ford were allocated the stock back in the dark days of 2009, when Ford’s shares had sunk to a low of little more than a dollar. Fast forward a couple of years and the stock is currently trading at around $14.50, not a bad return to form by anyone’s standards.

That makes Mullally’s 3.8m shares worth around $56m before tax, and Ford’s 2.9m shares a still-pretty-chunky $42m. Even after tax that’s going to leave plenty in the kitty for as many brand new Mustang’s, Explorers or Super-Duty pick ups as they fancy. Or perhaps the pair will bag themselves for one of Ford’s new eco-range of Escape and Fusion hybrids? A snip from only $28,000.

That’s the kind of money which would make even the likes of Barclay’s Bob Diamond or RBS’s Stephen Hester stop and think. It seems it is still possible to make a fortune the old fashioned way, too – by actually manufacturing something.

It’s impossible to deny that the pair have done a good job at Ford over the past few years – chairman Ford has gained huge respected for admitting his own limitations and putting Mulally in the driving seat in 2006, well before the wheels really started to fall off the global industry. Mulally meanwhile, the former boss of Boeing, has been going through Ford like a dose of salts, using the recession as a once in a generation opportunity to fix all the things that everyone knew were broke but couldn’t raise the urgency to tackle.

He’s also been busy re-invigorating Ford’s brand image, taking advantage of the misfortune of others to grab market share and even choosing to address the CeBIT electronics conference rather than the Geneva Motorshow recently. The reason?  Integration of mobile gadgets is increasingly important to younger buyers ‘Cars are the ultimate mobile device’ he has said.

As a result, Ford posted a $6.6bn profit last year, its highest since 1999, and regained the number two slot in the US market from Toyota. It’s also creating several thousand new jobs this year.

Of course one of the reasons that the pair have been so well rewarded is that they started from such a low base. It’s arguable that the job which now faces the firm’s leadership – keeping the company firmly on the blacktop and well away from the rumble strip -  is at least as challenging, but likely to be a lot less rewarding simply because the shares are no longer so far underwater. Unsurprisingly there have been calls from the US auto unions for workers to share more generously in the spoils.

But the big difference between the likes of Ford and its financial sector oppo’s is that Ford unarguably has oodles of social utility. Thousands of workers directly employed and a vast supply chain stretching all around the globe do at least ensure that the ‘real’ economy benefits substantially. Rebalancing western economies so that there is rather more real value creation and rather less financial wizardry going on would be a valuable stabilising influence.

So what’s good for Ford isn’t just good for America, it’s a tonic we could do with on this side of the atlantic, too.

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