Kerkorian interest buoys Ford stock

Kirk Kerkorian: Once again, roiling the waters
DETROIT — Kirk Kerkorian's investment kept Ford Motor Co. stock trading last week near its highest levels in almost six months.

The stock reached $8.68 on Friday morning before closing at $8.27 . That was one day after Kerkorian representative Jerry York told Automotive News that he would unload Volvo and Mercury if he were in Ford CEO Alan Mulally's shoes.

York, a former auto executive, said he thinks the Ford CEO will hold onto the Lincoln brand. York and Mulally met in early April, just a couple of days after Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. began buying Ford shares.

In that meeting, Mulally didn't share his plans for the brands, York said. But he likes Mulally's strategy.

“I'm very confident that (Mulally's plan) is the answer, and I think you'll see that he'll put Volvo on the market within the next year and a half,” York said. “There's no rational reason for keeping Volvo or Mercury.”

A Ford spokesman said Friday that Volvo is not for sale and that the company continues to invest in Mercury.

On Wednesday, April 30, Tracinda announced that it would make a cash tender offer for up to 20 million shares of Ford stock at $8.50 a share. Tracinda owns 100 million shares, representing 4.7 percent of Ford's shares outstanding.

Kerkorian has a history of pushing for change and board representation with past investments in Chrysler and General Motors.

The Ford family's 40 percent voting stake in its namesake company will make it difficult for Kerkorian to repeat that pattern.

Asked last week whether he's worried that Kerkorian's involvement could distract Ford executives, Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, said management must concentrate on its own business challenges.

“We can't control what happens externally,” Fields said. “What we can control as a team is how we're going to focus our efforts.” 

You can reach Amy Wilson at awilson@crain.com

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