Back in 2008 there were six candidates to succeed Alan Mulally as Ford's CEO. Now, as a Ford insider says, it is Mark Fields' job to lose after widespread reports that he is about to be appointed as COO.
Those reports last week all but ended years of speculation -- a parlor game that got its official launch in March 2008 when Joe Laymon, who was then Ford's personnel chief, disclosed to Automotive News the short list of internal candidates.
Laymon's list included Fields; Jim Farley, the new Ford marketing chief; Joe Hinrichs, head of global manufacturing; Stephen Odell, Ford of Europe COO; CFO Don Leclair; and Lewis Booth, head of Ford of Europe.
What happened to Laymon's also-rans? Booth became global CFO, then retired in April of this year. Leclair clashed with Fields and retired before the end of 2008. Farley was promoted in 2010 to head of global marketing, sales and service. Hinrichs is now in charge of Asian operations. And Odell is president of European operations.
Ford won't confirm that Fields has a lock on the CEO job. But back in 2008 Laymon spelled out for us how the whole thing would probably go down: Ideally, he said, Mulally's successor would take a clear No. 2 role -- such as COO -- six to 12 months before the handoff.