Alan Mulally will be a hard act to follow as CEO of Ford Motor Co. The former Boeing executive, who arrived in Detroit in 2006 to a chorus of skeptics, pulled off what Time magazine called "the biggest business turnaround of the Great Recession."
In the process, Mulally transformed Ford's culture, made employees believe in themselves again and became, in the minds of some, a folk hero. But Mulally is 66, which means the company's board of directors has to consider successors, even if his departure date is uncertain.
Joe Laymon, Ford's former vice president for human resources, created a fire storm in 2008 by identifying several candidates to succeed Mulally, and Ford-watchers say four of them now lead the pack.
-- Mark Fields, 50, president of the Americas, currently the front-runner.
-- Lewis Booth, CFO, 63. Booth might be the choice if Mulally were to retire soon.
-- Jim Farley, 49, group vice president of global marketing, sales and service.
-- Joe Hinrichs, 45, group vice president of Ford Asia Pacific and Africa.
The wiry, athletic Mulally seems happy to stick around. And insiders say the company probably will let him leave on his own terms.
"He continues to do well," said one former Ford executive, adding that statements from Executive Chairman Bill Ford suggest that Mulally "can continue to stay there as long as he wants."