Jim Hackett outlines his method of leading Ford Motor Co. in an interview with the Detroit Free Press.
Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press
Ford Motor Co. announced early Thursday that the carmaker has hired an Amazon finance veteran who led the high-profile Whole Foods initiative to assume the role of chief financial officer as of June 1, succeeding longtime Ford CFO Bob Shanks.
Tim Stone, 52, starts with the company on April 15, just in time for the shareholder annual meeting on May 9. Shanks will remain with Ford for the transition through December 2019. He will take a lead on the shareholder call, deliver first quarter sales figures in April and work on special projects.
Stone, who worked at Amazon during its multi-billion dollar evolution from 1998 to 2018, left as vice president of finance. Previously, he was CFO of Amazon Web Services and Digital Content.
Stone left his most recent employer, Santa Monica-based tech company Snap, Inc., best known for the Snapchat app, after 10 months. Reuters reported on January 15 that he was “leaving to pursue other opportunities.”
Bloomberg reported a day later that Stone went around the back of the CEO to ask the board of directors for a “significant” pay raise, which he was denied.
The company said at the time that Stone’s resignation wasn’t related to the company’s accounting, strategy, financial or other practices, Bloomberg reported.
On Jan. 21, the tech news site businessinsider.com reported “animosity” between Stone and his boss, Evan Spiegel, after Stone’s unauthorized action and prior to his exit.
Stone was earning $500,000 a year plus restricted stock units initially worth $20 million.
The CEO founder of Snap Inc, Evan Spiegel, is a 28-year-old billionaire.
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Ford declined to reveal the salary or compensation package it will give Stone, said Ford spokeswoman Karen Hampton.
In March, Ford reported Shanks was compensated $8.4 million for 2018, compared with $6.7 million in 2017 and $6.3 million in 2016.
Stone comes from the “tech space,” but brings an appreciation for Ford and the auto industry to the job, Ford said in its announcement.
“Stone worked for his father, a general contractor and plumber. The vehicles in his dad’s business were Ford trucks and the family drove Ford Explorers and Ford vans,” Ford said in the news release.
In a prepared statement, Stone said he is honored to join the iconic company and put his experience “building businesses of the future” toward helping Ford build its next 100 years.
The Dearborn-based company is 115 years old.
“Thirty years ago, through my father’s business, I witnessed firsthand the importance of Ford to our economy and our community,” Stone said.
Stone, who has a Bachelor of Science degree in accounting from the University of Southern California, comes to Ford as the first outsider in the role since 1949. At that time, Ford hired Theodore Yntema, a consulting economist to Ford.
On June 1, Stone will assume the CFO role and report to Ford CEO Jim Hackett.
The transition from a seasoned CFO in the automotive industry to someone without industry experience was notable, analysts observed.
The “non-auto experience has opportunity for accelerating innovation, through looking at the environment through a different lens,” said automotive analyst Stephanie Brinley of IHS Markit. “Stone’s experience with e-commerce may help Ford as it navigates from operating in its traditional business to an environment where it looks to be both automaker and mobility service provider.”
Jon Gabrielsen, an economist who advises auto companies and suppliers, advised caution.
“Amazon is a lighting fast moving distribution company, which is the antithesis of a long life cycle product development and manufacturing company like Ford – the two could not be more opposite in what you need to know and how you need to act,” said Jon Gabrielsen, an economist who advises automakers and suppliers.
Karl Brauer, executive publisher at Kelley Blue Book, said former Ford CEO Alan Mullally proved to the world that outsiders can make a good fit.
“If the top guy who runs the company can come from outside the automotive industry and be successful, I think the CFO can come from outside the industry and be successful,” Brauer said. “Ford is interested in evolving their company and being able to look at things in a new way with new revenue sources and new business models.”
Ford said the connection between its “smart vehicles” and Amazon is perfect.
“We’re so excited to have Tim join Ford at this incredible time for our company,” Hackett said. “He was a key player in the incredible success at Amazon and he understands the principles of fitness and growth as complementary virtues for Ford’s future.”
Hampton declined to say whether Stone is in the running to become CEO. She dismissed any concern about automotive knowledge, saying the team at Ford is strong.
“We have a very long tradition of developing deep finance talent here inside Ford Motor Co. that continues today,” she said.
Hampton emphasized that Stone joined Amazon when it was just selling books and went on to make investment decisions and place “big bets” to “make Amazon what it is today. “We believe that experience, on top of his broad financial experience is an add to the team at Ford.”
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