Ford to remain in family as next generation all set to take center stage
Ford Motor Co. is elevating two of founder Henry Ford’s great-great grandchildren to its board of directors, continuing the family’s control over the industrial dynasty he created nearly 118 years ago.
Alexandra Ford English, 33, who works in corporate strategy at the company, and Henry Ford III, 40, who works in investor relations, were nominated to stand for election to the board at Ford’s annual meeting in May, the company said Friday. Ford English, who also sits on the board of Rivian Automotive Inc., is the daughter of Executive Chairman Bill Ford, 63, and Ford III is the son of Edsel Ford II, 72, who is retiring as a company director after 33 years.
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Their ascension marks a coming of age for the Ford family’s fifth generation at a time when the auto industry is undergoing a massive transformation to electric and autonomous cars, with new players like Tesla Inc. and Rivian staking claims to the future of transportation. For all but 20 of its years, Ford has been led by a family member. Corporate governance experts say that has made the company too insular and backward looking, while supporters argue it has provided stability that helped Ford avoid the bankruptcies that befell its Detroit rivals during the Great Recession of 2009.
“We didn’t go bankrupt, when our competitors did, and from a shareholder’s standpoint, that kind of counts for a lot," Bill Ford said in an interview. “The family has always been quick to act, even when it hurts their interest, like stopping the dividend, to help the company. The less tangible value is that it humanizes us and makes us more than just a paycheck."
Ford shares have risen 52% this year as the automaker has announced plans to invest $29 billion in electric and self-driving vehicles by 2025. The company continues to work to reverse its fortunes in the traditional automotive business, with new models that include the electric Mustang Mach-E and the revival of the Bronco sport utility vehicle.