Ford's Kelley Resigns as Head of Luxury-Car Unit
By Bill Koenig
Dearborn, Michigan, July 19 (Bloomberg) -- Ford Motor Co. said Brian Kelley quit after nine months as head of the carmaker's Lincoln Mercury unit, the latest departure of an executive hired by ousted Chief Executive Officer Jacques Nasser as sales fall.
Kelley, 41, took over the luxury-car unit in October, after joining the world's second-largest automaker in 1999 to develop Internet sales under Nasser's strategy to focus on Ford as a consumer company. Darryl Hazel, 54, takes over Aug. 1, spokesman Jim Trainor said. U.S. Lincoln and Mercury sales fell at six times the industry pace in the first six months this year.
Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. replaced Nasser as CEO in October, and changed the Nasser strategy to focus the company on making cars and trucks and improving quality. The automaker replaced Firestone tires linked to an estimated 271 U.S. highway deaths in accidents involving the tires, most on Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicles, and had a $5.45 billion loss in 2001.
``He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' said Maryann Keller, an independent auto analyst and con******t. Executives hired by Nasser ``were all brought in to transform the Ford culture into some global conglomerate that happened to build cars. In the new Ford, these people carry the baggage of being hand- picked by Jacques Nasser to carry out a revolution.''
The move was a part of executive changes announced today by Ford after its total sales declined at least 10 percent in five of this year's first six months. Kelley, who's leaving to become chief executive officer of relocation and logistic services provider SIRVA, said he didn't feel pressured to depart Ford.
``It's a good chance to be a CEO of a good growth opportunity,'' he said in an interview.
Ford shares slid 42 cents to $12.39. The stock of the Dearborn, Michigan-based company has fallen 21 percent this year.
Other Nasser Recruits
Other Nasser recruits to depart since Ford took over as CEO in October include Jason Vines, vice president of communications, and Don Winkler, CEO of the automaker's Ford Motor Credit Co. unit. Vice President Karen Francis, 39, Ford's top electronic- commerce executive, said this month she's resigning Aug. 1 as the company reduces Internet commerce activities.
Hazel was vice president of Ford Customer Service. He is succeeded by Kathleen Ligocki, vice president of marketing and operations. Ford is paring the number of managers at the vice president or higher level to about 46 from 52 as the company exits businesses not directly related to vehicle production.
Sales of Lincoln, Ford's U.S.-based luxury brand, fell 17 percent in the first half of 2002 and Mercury sales declined 18 percent, according to Autodata Corp. U.S. auto sales slid 2.6 percent in that time. Ford is developing new models to help reverse the losses, and that strategy ``is one of the planks'' of the company's back-to-basics strategy, Hazel said.
Kelley's New Job
SIRVA is 79 percent-owned by a fund managed by New York-based Clayton, Dubilier & Rice Inc. The company was formed in the 1999 combination of Allied Van Lines and North American Van Lines.
Jim Rogers, a principal of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, has served as SIRVA's CEO since April 2001 and will remain chairman of the company. SIRVA has annual revenue of about $2.2 billion, said spokesman Christopher Tofalli.
Retired General Electric Co. CEO Jack Welch is a special partner of Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, he said. Kelley served as vice president and general manager for sales and distribution with General Electric's appliance division.