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Ford loses control of Mazda

Power shift: Mazda boss Hisakazu Imaki and Ford counterpart Alan Mulally.

Mazda becomes more Japanese as Ford sells most of its stake for $838 million

Mazda logo19 Nov 2008

HAVING rescued Mazda from bankruptcy in 1996, Ford Motor Company this morning relinquished most of its stake in the Japanese car-maker – and most of its control – to raise much-needed funds to fight its own financial crisis.

Ford raised $US540 million ($A838 million) by reducing its Mazda shareholding from 33.4 per cent to just 13 per cent, inevitably weakening Ford’s position in the Mazda boardroom.

Although Ford remains the major single shareholder, the Japanese company has moved quickly to purge the strong American influence at Hiroshima.

Chief financial officer David Friedman and sales chief Dan Morris have stepped down from Mazda Motor Corporation’s board and return to Ford, along with senior managers David Stickel and Anthony Pastor.

The only surviving Ford executive at Mazda is Philip Spender, who will remain on a reshuffled six-man board, but with reduced responsibilities.

 center imageMr Spender (pictured left), who spent most of his career in Australia and his native New Zealand, is remains a Mazda ‘representative director’, and a vice-president, but his specific areas of responsibility – including R&D, environment, sales, marketing, cost-cutting and quality assurance – have been handed to Japanese directors and executive officers.

Mazda has bought back 6.87 per cent of its own stock – about one-third of Ford’s shareholding – for $A288 million before the Tokyo Stock Exchange opened this morning, while the balance was purchased by more than 20 unidentified Mazda business partners.

Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally said that his strife-torn company will now “continue to focus on the Ford brand worldwide”.

“This agreement allows Ford to raise capital that will help fund our product-led transformation, and at the same time allows Ford and Mazda to continue our successful strategic relationship in the best interest of both companies,” said Mr Mulally.

Mazda president and CEO Hisakazu Imaki – the first Japanese CEO after a run of four Ford executives at the top since 1996 – said that the two companies will continue its 30-year relationship with joint-ventures and product-sharing.

“The sale of Mazda shares by our partner, Ford, will not result in any change in Mazda’s strategic direction and we will continue to accelerate our product-led brand improvement and cost innovation initiatives,” said Mr Imaki.

“We will continue our strategic relationship through our ongoing joint ventures with Ford, as well as the sharing of platforms and powertrains.”

Mr Imaki, 65, today becomes the chairman of Mazda while Takashi Yamanouchi takes over as president and CEO.

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