* Ford chairman acquires 3.7 million shares of 'supervoting'
* Bill Ford now owns about 8.1 million Class B shares
* Shares were transferred by another family member
By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT, June 26 Bill Ford Jr, executive
chairman of Ford Motor Co and great-grandson of the
company's founder, nearly doubled his holdings in a special
class of supervoting shares that gives the Ford family more sway
over the automaker's direction.
The Ford family scion acquired nearly 3.7 million Class B
shares on June 19, according to a previously unreported
securities filing posted last week. He now owns about 8.1
million Class B shares, including shares held in trusts for
others, including his children.
The shares were transferred to Bill Ford from a family
member. Ford spokeswoman Susan Krusel on Wednesday declined to
provide other details, saying it was a personal transaction
within the Ford family.
Class B shares make up less than 2 percent of outstanding
Ford shares, but hold 40 percent of the voting power. Bill Ford
now holds close to 11.5 percent of the nearly 71 million Class B
shares held by the descendents of company founder Henry Ford.
Bill Ford's expanded stake could be a comfort to investors
at a time when the second-largest U.S. automaker is navigating
the next delicate steps of its turnaround, some investors said.
Ford is currently expanding in China and overhauling its
luxury Lincoln brand. The company must also find and develop a
successor to Chief Executive Alan Mulally, who has led Ford
since 2006 and plans to stay through at least 2014.
Company insiders and analysts widely expect Mark Fields, the
automaker's current chief operating officer, to fill Mulally's
"The more control (Bill Ford) has versus the other members
of the family is probably more beneficial to the company because
he's very, very invested," said Eric Turner, global equity
analyst for Turner Investments, which invests in auto stocks and
has previously owned shares in Ford.
'ALMOST-MYTHICAL' FAMILY MEETINGS
Bill Ford is well respected in the family and recognized for
his efforts to steer Ford from the brink of collapse as the
automaker's financial crisis deepened, analysts said.
In 2006, he fired himself as chief executive and hired
then-Boeing Co executive Mulally. That move helped Ford
become the only U.S. automaker to avoid a federal bailout in
The latest transaction gives Bill Ford his largest holding
yet of Class B shares, which must remain in the family to retain
their supervoting power. The Ford family's voting power
diminishes once their Class B shares fall below about 60.8
His cousin Lynn Alandt owns 8.3 million Class B shares,
while trusts overseen by Ford family lawyer David Hempstead own
9.3 million, according to Ford's most recent proxy filing.
The majority of Class B shares are held in a voting trust,
which has five trustees, including Bill Ford, his father William
Clay Ford Sr and his cousin Edsel Ford II, who is also on the
"It's almost mythical, the family process," Jefferies
analyst Peter Nesvold said. "It's public knowledge that they
hold family meetings. They come to collective decisions on
things and they vote their shares as a block."
The dual class structure was put in place when the automaker
went public in 1956. But investors have mounted efforts to
change this structure.
A shareholder proposal to diminish the Ford family's voting
power received the strongest support ever during the automaker's
annual meeting in early May. The proposal netted 33.4 percent of
votes, up from 29.5 percent last year.
"Having the family vote and ownership position really
allowed the company to stay focused and not get distracted and
survive and ultimately thrive," Bill Ford told reporters after
this year's meeting.