Monday, May 14, 2007

Ford family 'consider relinquishing control' (TimesOnline)

After value drops 74 per cent in eight years, founder's family are thinking of selling majority stakeRhys Blakely
Ford’s founding family are reportedly considering selling their controlling stake in the loss-making carmaker after 104 years, a move that could pave the way for a tie-up with another group, such as the Nissan-Renault union.

Some Ford family members have called for Perella Weinberg Partners, the investment bank, to be hired to advise on a possible sale of their controlling interest in the embattled carmaker, according to new agency Bloomberg.

The Ford family owns 71 million Class B shares in Ford, a stake worth about $585 million, down from $2.3 billion since Bill Ford became chairman eight years ago.

Ford posted a record loss of some $12.6 billion last year and in September halted paying dividends – cutting off the $85 million the family earned from then each year as recently as 2001.

In September, Ford also appointed Alan Mulally to succeed Bill Ford as chief executive.

Late last year, Bill Ford said that there was “no reason to think that any change in the ownership structure needs to take place”.

Since then, however, it has been reported that younger family members have questioned whether the company might have been better managed by outsiders during a period when “the Detroit three” – General Motors, Chrysler and Ford – all suffered at the hands of foreign competitors.

Last year it was reported that Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Nissan and Renault, suggested that Ford could join the partnership if the Ford family was willing to cede control.

Elsewhere in the sector, DaimlerChrysler, the German carmaker, confirmed a deal to sell its ailing US unit to Cerberus, a US private equity firm, in a move that will cost it €500 million to end its unhappy 10-year old trans-Atlantic merger.

The Mercedes-Benz group said that it was selling its 80.1 per cent stake in Chrysler to Cerberus in return for a €5.5 billion (£3.8 billion) capital injection. Cerberus will also take on Chrysler's massive $18 billion pension and healthcare liabilities.

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