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Ford’s Forgotten Man

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Don Leclair was depicted in a fairly negative light in Bill Vlasic’s “Once Upon a Car.” However, the former CFO of Ford can be given a lot of the credit for Ford’s superior recovery during the economic crisis in the auto industry during the mid to late 2000’s. Jason Vines, a former Ford Vice President described Leclair as, “the stereotypical bean counter, and pretty damn good at what he’s trained to do. He saved Ford.” Leclair initiated a bold strategy months before the hiring of Mulally from Boeing. In 2006, he led a team that raised 24 billion dollars of cash by mortgaging some of Ford’s key assets. Without this extra cash, Ford would have most likely met the same fate as GM and Chrysler. With the money Leclair raised, Ford managed to avoid the, “stigma of bankruptcy or nationalization.” This was crucial in allowing Mulally to sculpt the brand’s image as he wanted. Mulally was able to create “One Ford,” by shedding other car brands such as Jaguar and Land Rover. With the money Leclair raised and the money saved by cutting costs from the other luxury brands, Ford increased quality and product diversity, and is now extremely profitable. Leclair also was able to do this deal at the perfect time, “capital markets were very hot in 2006. By 2007 this deal wouldn’t have gotten done.” Leclair orchestrated a vital move at a breaking point in Ford’s history. Without Leclair, Ford would have most likely been forced to declare bankruptcy, thus the Ford family would have lost all their super-voting stock and their control of the company along with it. The government would have bailed out Ford and restructured the entire company in an image that would probably be much different then that of Mulally’s. “Ford’s vehicles are attracting some shoppers who withhold consideration from GM and Chrysler because they were recipients of a government bailout. And Don Leclair keeps his silence in retirement, surely cognizant that without mortgaging Ford’s key assets, much of the automaker’s current hot streak might never have happened.”