Ford (NYSE: F ) CEO Alan Mulally has been called "irreplaceable," and while the company has made clear he’s staying put for now, that hasn’t stopped the rumor mill from buzzing about when he might leave.
At some point in the future, Ford will face the prospect of having to replace him. Should Ford shareholders be worried about a post-Mulally Ford?
I put that question to Eddy Elfenbein, who writes about stocks at Crossing Wall Street and has Ford as one of the 20 stocks on his "buy list." Elfenbein was named by CNNMoney as “the best buy-and-hold blogger” on the Web. We spoke last week in Washington, D.C., about Ford, Mulally, and a host of other topics. Watch our conversation here (run time: 2:39), or read the transcript below to see why he’s bullish on Ford:
Brian Richards: Ford is another one on your recommended list, and we talked a little bit about management earlier and how important management is. Alan Mulally is seen as irreplaceable. But the buzz machine is starting about whether it might be time for him to move on as well. Do you see Ford persevering after Mulally?
Eddy Elfenbein: I do. I'm a big fan of Ford. I think they have done an amazing job, and I think the stock is … I'm astounded at how much of a bargain it is. Literally I think it's $10, I think it could be $20. And a lot of it we have to give Mulally credit.
Now, there's sort of two different skill sets of engineering the turnaround and then leading the company forward. Have they reached that point yet and have the problems become so severe that that's worthy of a change? I don't see that just yet, but that could be brewing.
What Ford has done a remarkable job of lowering their costs per automobile, and that was really, really tearing into them. And they worked to bring that number down significantly, so each unit they sell they're making far more money. And then they're going to even do that further of paying down debt and then they have plans to take some retirees off the books and buy some employees really.
I think all the arrows are heading in Ford's directions and they just had another good sales report. I really think it's one of the turnarounds. I called it my "stock of the decade" shortly after the new decade, so I wanted to get ahead of everybody else.
Richards: And you're standing by that flag in the ground still?
Elfenbein: I am. I'm standing by and I think in 2011 I was ready to call the trends.