While Key Safety Systems has lost CEO Jason Luo to Ford Motor Co., Luo has left the suburban Detroit airbag supplier poised to double its size.
Key Safety expects to complete the purchase this month of Japan's Takata Corp. for $1.59 billion — a deal that will transform Key Safety into the world's No. 2 airbag maker behind Autoliv Inc.
On June 26, Key Safety announced a deal to acquire Takata's assets. On Aug. 23, Ford announced that Luo will become CEO of Ford China.
During an interview last week, Luo, 51, said most major issues have been resolved in the Takata acquisition, and that Key Safety has the support of Takata's 15 automotive customers.
"We have targeted signing a purchase agreement by early September" with the deal closing early next year, he said. "The team resolved remaining issues with customers and Takata last week."
The purchase agreement will tie up several loose threads at Key Safety as Luo joins Ford China.
Luo, who has managed Key Safety for a decade and steered the supplier through the 2008-09 economic crisis, said a Ford recruiter approached him in the summer of 2016. Luo accepted the offer early this year, but told Ford he wanted to complete the Takata deal before leaving Key Safety.
He had expected to announce the Takata acquisition in March, but the Japanese airbag maker's financial liabilities complicated negotiations.
In July, Luo tendered his resignation to Key Safety's board of directors.
The new job allows Luo, a Chinese-born engineer who has lived in the United States for three decades, to return to Shanghai to be near his aging parents.
Key Safety has hired an outside firm to help recruit a new CEO. In the meantime, Key Safety Director Yuxin Tang will run the company with help from a transition committee of Key Safety executives.
As announced, Key Safety plans to acquire Takata's seat belt factories, r&d and work force — but not its legal liabilities or the plants that produce the failure-prone inflators that led to the largest automotive recall in history.
The company will establish an Asian headquarters in Tokyo and it will keep all manufacturing plants in Japan open.
Takata's plant managers and regional executives will be offered positions, but Takata will not retain its global headquarters.