Re: US:Ford Weighs Drastic Moves
Ford turns to longtime con******t to lead review
He was no stranger in Dearborn while at Goldman Sachs
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- With its turnaround plan foundering, Ford Motor Co. looked outside the company for help but did not turn to a stranger.
Ford Chairman and CEO Bill Ford Jr. hired merger and acquisitions expert Kenneth H.M. Leet, 48, to review the money-losing company's operations and explore ways to improve performance, including possible asset sales and alliances with other automakers.
Leet knows the automaker intimately. During an 18-year career with the New York investment firm Goldman Sachs, he was assigned to the Ford account for several years.
"It's true that he has known Bill (Ford) and other senior executives for years," Ford spokesman Tom Hoyt said Wednesday.
Through Ford, Leet declined to be interviewed for this story.
Hoyt said Leet will divide his time between Dearborn, New York and "wherever the work is."
Family members and colleagues describe Leet as an exceptionally and dedicated man who splits his time between volunteering and the grueling hours of investment banking.
"It's not just about numbers crunching," said Frank Aquila, a partner at the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, who has worked with Leet. "(What) Ken has always been known for is that he really understands both parties. He has a knack of understanding not only the financial issues, but really the non-financial issues that make him well-suited."
Over an 18-year career in the mergers and acquisitions department at Goldman Sachs, Leet worked for many industrial companies, including Emerson Electronics, and CSX Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based transportation company
"He's very smart," said Leet's father, Ken, 78, a retired structural engineering professor from Chestnut Hill, Mass. "He has a very high IQ and he's always done very well. He sees things very quickly."
Ford's new strategic con******t is also a one-time undefeated wrestler who raced through Brown University in 3 1/2 years before beginning what has become a distinguished career in international finance.
He is a graduate of Milton Academy in Milton, Mass., Brown in Providence, R.I., and Harvard University Business School in Cambridge, Mass. He started at Brown with an eye toward medicine, but shifted gears to economics after his first year and even considered becoming a concert pianist, his father said.
In July 2003, Leet, who was managing director of the investment banking division at Goldman Sachs, was nominated to become undersecretary of domestic finance at the Treasury Department for the Bush Administration. Three months later, he withdrew his name for unspecified health problems.
"I had hoped to repay some small portion of the blessings I have received by serving my country as a member of your economic team," Leet told President Bush in an Oct. 29, 2003, letter.
Even before he withdrew, he had an interest in cancer research.
He serves as a trustee at the Harvard University-affiliated Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is also founder of the Immunotherapy Research Fund and a trustee of the Rudolph Rupert Foundation, a small cancer research trust.
His father said Leet has recovered from the medical problem, and has recently begun writing a book about his experience.
Leet left Goldman in 2004. In March 2005, he went to work for Bank of America in London managing the firm's investment banking activities with industrial companies and left in May.
The oldest of two children, Leet's sister is an orthopedic surgeon in Baltimore. His wife had a career in finance specializing in real estate. He is the father of three young boys and a daughter, whom he shuttled around in a 1993 Ford Explorer before the family moved to London and he gave the SUV to his parents.
"He thought it offered a lot of protection," Ken Leet said.
Ford has several other close ties to Goldman Sachs. Two of the company's board members, Robert Rubin and John E. Thornton, are former Goldman executives. And the automaker's relationship with the firm dates back to 1956, when Goldman handled Ford's initial offering of public stock. Bill Ford and Thornton have been acquaintances since their prep school days in Connecticut in the 1970s.
Between 1996 and 2003, Ford reportedly paid Goldman more than $90 million in fees, according to media reports at the time, handling numerous transactions, including the purchase and sale of precious metals like palladium.
In 1999, Bill Ford bought 400,000 shares in Goldman Sachs Group Inc.'s initial public offering. After questions arose about possible conflicts of interest, Ford sold his stake and donated the profits to charity. In 2004, the company settled a shareholders lawsuit, agreeing to pay $13.4 million to settle the matter, with $10 million going to into a charitable trust.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....