Allan Gilmour cites one great accomplishment as Ford Motor Co. CFO in 1986: forcing the company to shun diversification and "stick to its home game.''
Gilmour, who was named vice-chairman and CFO on Monday, will be tutoring the company in the same lesson 16 years later. Ford is trying to revive its core automotive business after diversifying into e-commerce, parts recycling, vehicle retailing and other ventures in the late 1990s under ousted CEO Jacques Nasser. Ford calls its turnaround strategy "back to basics,'' a phrase interchangeable with Gilmour's "home game.''
As Ford CFO in 1986, Gilmour headed a team charged with identifying possible acquisitions.
"The real lesson for us was that Ford should stick to its home game and concentrate resources and human resourcefulness on being major league - the best - in automotive and financial services,'' Gilmour said in an official company profile written in October 1993.
"My great accomplishment during the era of diversification was that I didn't buy anything big,'' he said.
Automotive diversification into the aerospace industry was the siren song of the era. General Motors acquired Hughes Aerospace. Chrysler Corp. bought Gulfstream Aerospace.
"Exploring outside opportunities was a tremendous learning experience,'' Gilmour said in the profile. "We defined three objectives: to be a great automotive company, to grow substantially in financial services and to consider how to expand our participation in the aerospace industry.''
But Gilmour and Ford shied away from an aerospace pairing, citing excessive company valuations.
Ironically, Gilmour himself uses the phrase "back to basics'' in the company biography.
Gilmour, who was appointed corporate controller in 1979 tried to develop a slide presentation on Ford cars and recalled that it was "impossible to get an attractive photo of a 1980 Thunderbird,'' the profile said.
"That was a remarkable car,'' he said. "The only car I've ever seen with the distinction of looking ugly from every possible angle. I knew we were in trouble. It was a time of back to basics.''