Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who for a while had seemed to be the candidate to beat to become Microsoft’s next CEO, said Tuesday he is not coming to Microsoft and that he will be staying at Ford at least through the end of 2014.
That’s according to The Associated Press, which quoted Mulally as saying he wanted to end the Microsoft speculation.
“You don’t have to worry about me leaving,” Mulally said in the report. “I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford.”
This was the first time Mulally had given a definite answer to questions about whether he would remain at Ford or move on to Microsoft if the CEO job were offered.
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Mulally declined to say in the interview whether he had talked to Microsoft about the position.
Current Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced in August that he would be retiring within 12 months, once his successor has been chosen.
Since then, early reports and speculation had favored Mulally, and he had dodged questions about his plans by saying he was happy serving at Ford.
Mulally, who has been in the top position at Ford since 2006, has been credited with an epic turnaround of the automaker’s fortunes.
Between 2006 and 2008, the company posted about $30 billion in losses.
But from 2009 to 2012, the company made $35.2 billion profit. In the past quarter, the company reported profit of $1.3 billion — Ford’s 17th consecutive quarterly profit.
In the Puget Sound area, Mulally is arguably still best known for his turnaround of Boeing’s commercial-airplanes unit, which he led as president starting in 1998, with CEO duties added in 2001. Microsoft’s board-search committee had reportedly hoped to have the successor chosen by the end of last year, but said last month that it didn’t expect to finish its work until about early 2014.
Search-committee chairman John Thompson said then that the board had identified more than 100 possible candidates, talked with several dozen and narrowed the list down to about 20.
Thompson reiterated Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates’ statement earlier this year about the CEO position being a “complex role to fill, involving a complex business model and the ability to lead a highly technical organization and work with top technical talent.”
Other rumored candidates include Satya Nadella, Microsoft’s executive vice president of its Cloud and Enterprise division; Tony Bates, former Skype president and current executive vice president of Microsoft’s Business Development and Evangelism group; and former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who will be returning to Microsoft to head its Devices and Studios unit once Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia is finalized.
More recent reports indicated the board was leaning toward dark-horse candidates with high-tech experience such as Qualcomm Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf, who was named Qualcomm CEO a day after news reports surfaced that he was being considered for Microsoft’s CEO position.
Microsoft shares were down about 1 percent in after-hours trading; Ford shares were up about 1 percent.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @janettu.