Ford is firing CEO Mark Fields, naming former Steelcase chief Jim Hackett to take over, Forbes reports

Fields had been under pressure for the company’s lagging stock price and lower-than-expected profits so far this year. Photo credit: Bloomberg

UPDATED: 5/22/17 1:03 am ET – adds details

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. will fire CEO Mark Fields and replace him with James Hackett, head of the automaker’s Smart Mobility arm, according to a report by Forbes late Sunday.

An announcement will be made Monday, a source close to the situation told Forbes.

The Associated Press and the New York Times also reported the story early Monday.  

Forbes also reported that Ray Day, Ford’s head of communications, was also fired and would be replaced by Mark Truby, who currently heads Ford’s Asia Pacific communications. James Farley, president of Ford’s Europe, Middle East and Africa business, and Joseph Hinrichs, head of Ford North America, will take on larger roles, Forbes reported.

Jim Hackett

Ford would not confirm the Forbes report, saying in a statement: “We are staying focused on our plan for creating value and profitable growth. We do not comment on speculation or rumors.”

Hackett, 62, former CEO of office furniture maker Steelcase, was on Ford’s board from 2013 until last year, when he took charge of Ford Smart Mobility.

Ford created that subsidiary last year to handle its investments in autonomous vehicles and new mobility services. Fields has been pouring billions into self-driving cars and ride-sharing experiments as its traditional car business has struggled in a slowing U.S. market. 

Stock down

Fields, 56, had been under pressure for the company’s lagging stock price and lower-than-expected profits so far this year. Shareholders and board members reportedly questioned Fields’ strategy for the future of the company, which relies on heavy investments in driverless and electric vehicle technology. Since Fields took over as CEO from Alan Mullally in July 2014, Ford’s stock price has fallen nearly 40 percent.

Last week, Ford announced it would slash 1,400 salaried workers in North America and Asia as a cost-cutting move as it continues to spend on what it calls “emerging opportunities.” That type of move, normally reserved for distressed business units and economic downturns, came amid a relative boom time for the industry.

But it had the outside appearance of being a knee-jerk reaction to the mounting pressure the company’s leadership was facing.

Since Fields took over as CEO from Alan Mullally in July 2014, Ford’s stock price has fallen nearly 40 percent. Photo credit: Bloomberg

Ford career

Before he was named CEO, Fields served in a number of positions, including COO and president of the Americas. During his time leading the Americas, Fields was the architect of Ford’s “Way Forward” plan to restructure the business as its profits disappeared during the last industry downturn. He also served as CEO of Mazda.

When he took over for Mulally in 2014, Fields inherited an automaker on the verge of posting record profits. He also oversaw the transformation of the profit-generating F-150 to include an aluminum body, as well as dozens of other product launches. Fields also appointed a separate president to head the Lincoln Motor Co. in an effort to revive the luxury brand.

Executives, including Chairman Bill Ford, praised Fields early on and said the transition between CEOs had been seamless.

But Fields came under fire in recent years as Wall Street remained unimpressed with Ford’s profits and plans for the future. At last year’s shareholders conference, one shareholder even asked to bring back Mulally — a popular figure who helped save the company during the financial crisis.

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