Create a free account to continue

Ford And Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. Talk Restructuring

Automaker's top two executives met with Tracinda officials for an informal discussion on Ford's transformation plan.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ford Motor Co. said its two top executives met Tuesday with officials from billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian's Tracinda Corp. to discuss the company's transformation plan.

Ford said in a statement that the informal meeting with Tracinda, which recently increased its ownership stake in the company to 5.5 percent, was positive ''and a chance for the leaders of both companies to discuss elements of Ford's transformation plan that we have announced publicly.''

''We continue to welcome confidence in Ford by our various stakeholders,'' the company said in a brief statement.

Ford was represented by Chief Executive Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford, the company said. Ford spokesman Mark Truby said Kerkorian attended the meeting, but Truby declined to provide additional details on the discussion.

Tracinda spokesman Tom Johnson declined to comment on the meeting.

Kerkorian, 91, has tried to leave his mark on Detroit's auto companies during the past decade and his accumulation of Ford shares has been closely watched by the industry. Ford shares rose 10 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $6.60 Tuesday.

Ford's stock price has declined in recent weeks as consumers grapple with record-high gasoline prices and a sluggish economy, dampening automobile sales. Ford said earlier this month that it no longer expects to return to profitability by 2009 and is cutting North American production for the rest of the year.

Kerkorian's company has expressed confidence in Mulally and Ford's management team and completed a tender offer last week to buy 20 million Ford shares for about $170 million, increasing its stake to 5.5 percent.

Tracinda said in early May that it did not have any ''present intent to acquire or influence control over the business of Ford.'' But it said it ''may, from time to time, propose business strategies and ... acquire additional shares.''

Even if Kerkorian sought a larger stake in the company, Ford has protections from a takeover. The Ford family's shares carry 40 percent voting rights through a special class of stock, providing the company with stability from outside intrusion.

Kerkorian has rarely acted passively in the past during his forays into the auto industry. He tried to take over Chrysler during the 1990s and invested heavily in General Motors Corp. in 2006 in an attempt to orchestrate an alignment with Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA.

Jerry York, a top Kerkorian adviser and former Chrysler chief financial officer, has suggested Ford should sell its Mercury and Volvo brands, prompting the company to defend its handling of the brands.

Tracinda began accumulating 100 million Ford shares, or 4.7 percent of the outstanding stock, on April 2 at an average cost of $6.91 per share. It bought the additional 20 million shares at $8.50 per share.

Ford's board of directors said it was neutral on the tender offer and expressed no opinion on the transaction.

Peter Henning, a former attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission who teaches at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, said Ford would not likely need to provide much beyond its statement in a regulatory filing because the talks centered on the ongoing restructuring plan.

AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

More in Automotive