Since my article a month ago, there have been more and more speculation about whether Ford's (NYSE:F) boss Alan Mulally will be moving to Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and lead the company. Because the speculation kept increasing in volume and intensity, I decided to contact Mr. Mulally's office and asked if there is a change in the situation. They assured me that there hasn't been a change in the situation since the last press release, which said that Mr. Mulally would stay at Ford at least through 2014.
While I am almost certain that Alan Mulally was approached by Microsoft, this doesn't mean that he will leave Ford for Microsoft. Currently, Mr. Mulally is 68 years old and the retirement age in the US is 66. (The number ranges between 65 and 67 depending on one's birth year. Mr. Mulally's age corresponds to being able to retire at age 66.) Basically, Mr. Mulally could have been already retired by now but given his looks, health status and how energetic he is, he can definitely work for several more years.
When Alan Mulally first started his tenure at Ford in 2006, he rented a place within walking distance to Ford's headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Reportedly, he was working 7 days a week and more than 10 hours a day. Many times he would go home just to get his sleep, and come back to the office soon after waking up. During his tenure at Ford, Mr. Mulally has been so hardworking and determined that it is difficult to explain this with motivation to make money alone. While we all want to make money at our jobs, not many of us put that many days and hours into our work. Mr. Mulally has been working so hard for so many years that it became a part of him and he definitely isn't ready to hang the boots and retire anytime soon.
If Alan Mulally isn't retiring anytime soon, he could stay at Ford, or he could go to another company and do more work there. At Ford, he has an "open check" from the Ford family. More specifically, he will be allowed to run the company for as long as he wants. On the other hand, if he wants to leave the company to work elsewhere, Ford will not force him to stay. Of course, Ford has a vesting plan where an employee's full bonus package will depend on his tenure, which will motivate people to stay with the company long enough to maximize their benefits. However, Mr. Mulally could always get similar benefits elsewhere if he wanted to, which means this alone will not keep him at Ford.
One thing is for certain. Alan Mulally loves working at Ford and he loves the Ford family. Since the first day Ford family (especially Bill Ford) has been fully supportive of Mr. Mulally and he appreciates the opportunities he was given at Ford to prove himself to the world once again. He likes Ford's challenges and he likes the opportunities at the company. He loves seeing the fruits of all the hard work he has put in this company.
Alan Mulally could have definitely done a good job at Microsoft. His job at Microsoft would have been a lot easier than his job at Ford was at 2006. Back then, Ford was fighting for survival and no one knew if it would live for another day, whereas, Microsoft is a highly profitable company despite all its troubles. There are also other benefits of working at Microsoft for Mr. Mulally. For example, being able to move back to Washington State would definitely be nice for him since he lived there for a long time before moving to Michigan. Furthermore, turning around another American giant (after Boeing and Ford) would put Mr. Mulally in a spot not many CEOs have ever been to. Finally, he would get a chance to work with his old friend Bill Gates. Then again, these benefits don't mean that he will be making a move to Microsoft anytime soon.
Lately, Microsoft's strategy looks a lot like what Mr. Mulally would have done. Last year, I wrote several articles about Nokia where I pointed out that the company should follow the example of Alan Mulally if it wants to be saved. Two of my related articles were titled Buying Nokia Below $3 Is Like Buying Ford Below $2 and Could Nokia's Stephen Elop Be Like Ford's Alan Mulally? In 2006, Alan Mulally's strategy for Ford was to leverage all the company's global assets to build one Ford which would build products that people will actually want to own and spend money on. First, Nokia adopted this strategy and then, this is being implemented with Microsoft's "One Microsoft" strategy. Whether Alan Mulally goes to Microsoft or not, the company is already learning important lessons from him, which is great for the company.
So, if not Alan Mulally, who will head Microsoft next year? Honestly, I don't think anyone knows the answer at this point. I'm just holding onto my Microsoft and Ford shares and waiting patiently. Since I own shares of both companies, I should be impartial to both companies, however, I feel an emotional connection with Ford since my last 4 cars have all been Ford vehicles (and my last 5 or so phones have all been Nokias with the exception of one iPhone). The next year or so will be very exciting for both Ford and Microsoft as both companies continue to implement their strategies for success.
Additional disclosure: In addition to MSFT shares, I also own some long term call options.