Ford Motor CEO Alan Mulally has been topping lists as the most desirable candidate to take the reins from Steve Ballmer at Microsoft, but the odds are going down on the 68-year-old executive leaving the automaker.
"Alan is staying through the end of 2014 and that's all I know," company board director Edsel Ford II, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, told Bloomberg. "Frankly, he has told us that his plan is to stay with Ford through the end of 2014."
Speaking on Bloomberg TV on Thursday, Mulally said he planned to stay at Ford. "I love serving Ford, and there is no change in the plan."
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Microsoft's board was leaning toward Mulally or Satya Nadella, vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group. Also on the final candidate list are Stephen Elop, a former Microsoft executive and outgoing Nokia CEO, and Tony Bates, a former Skype executive who now heads up Microsoft business development.
While the public statements indicate that Mulally will continue to run Ford, and the clock is ticking on Microsoft making a CEO choice before the end of the year, stranger things have happened than an executive changing his mind.
Rick Sherlund of Nomura Securities, who has been covering Microsoft for 25 years, believes that Mulally will still end up with the Microsoft job and it will lift the company's stock. In a research note he wrote:
Today on CNBC, Alan Mulally was asked directly about this, and he said only that he is happy serving Ford. When then confronted with the observation that he did not answer the question, all he would say is, "we do not comment on speculation." We view these as non-denial denials. If he were not in discussions, it would be easy to say I am not interested and will not go, as some other candidates have said. He does not say this.
Moreover, press reports quote Ford director Edsel Ford II as saying, "He told us his plan is to stay with Ford until the end of 2014" (Bloomberg, December 5). This has been interpreted as he is not going until the end of 2014. Alternatively, it can be viewed as he has not changed his plans because he does not yet have the offer to go. Of course, we think his plan is unchanged at this point in time.
This story has been updated with Rick Sherlund's perspective on whether Mulally will leave Ford for Microsoft.