After the news that 'activist shareholder' Kirk Kerkorian and his representatives have met with Ford's Chairman and CEO in Las Vegas, Rob Golding speculates on what might have occurred...

US: Ford bosses meet Tracinda for a chat

A phone rings

Al? It's Bill.

Morning chairman. How can I help?

Get a couple of flights to Vegas.

What now Bill? Aren't we busy with the Ford half year close on the financials?

This ain't no bleeping holiday Al. Do it. Let me know.

Some time later:

Hello Bill.

Got those rooms?

Not quite.

Not quite?! It's June. There are empty hotel rooms all over the Strip.

I know, it's odd. There are plenty of rooms till I say I'm checking in Bill Ford. Then there aren't any rooms. Shall we just get on with the paper pushing and forget the mini-break?

Al. I tell you. We gotta go. Kerkorian wants us there.

Kerkorian? The 90-year-old? Face like an iguana? Isn't he the trouble-maker who has been buying our shares on the cheap.

Right.

And when he did the same at GM he wanted to alter the way things were done, and change the management.

Don't remind me.

Well let's ignore him.

Al, he's built up a stake of 5.5%.

So?

That's more than me Al. I only got 3%.

But chairman, the Ford family has 40% of the votes.

Listen sunshine. I just checked the Forbes rich list. He's America's seventh wealthiest man. He's got $16bn dollars in the bank. The whole of Ford motors is only worth $12bn. Besides, who's to say that the Ford family are all voting with Bill Ford? I know I can get rooms. Leave it to me.

Some time later:

Al

Yes sir.

Get the camper van serviced.

Why?

Just do it. We are taking the scenic route. Don't ask.

Chairman...have you been too long in the sun? Need a lie down?

OK. I'll tell you. Uuuum...I couldn't get a flight.

Couldn't get a flight? I can get a flight. I used to run Boeing remember.

So you did. OK, I'll come clean. It's not the flight that's the problem. I couldn't get a hotel.

Told you. Did you try the MGM Grand?

Kerkorian owns it.

I see. What about City Centre?

He owns it.

The Bellagio?

He owns that, too.

The Mandalay?

Same.

You won't pay for one of his hotels then?

Never. And anyway, as soon as I gave my name, none of them would take my booking.

What about a hotel he doesn't own?

They're all rubbish. Besides he'd be offended.

Uuuum. So we need to sleep over in the camper?

Only way.

Some time later:

Chairman?

Yep?

I've packed. Got some bagels, and spare radiator hoses just in case.

Top dude.

I've been thinking: who else is going to be at this meeting?

We're outnumbered. Kerkorian's fielding Terry Christensen and York.

You mean Jerry York? The guy who was CFO at Chrysler and then took the big hostile stake in GM? Tried to get Carlos Ghosn to buy in?

The same.

I've just heard he's been wandering around saying that my plan's a humdinger, but that we gotta sell Volvo and Mercury.

He's a nutter.

Well you say that chairman, but we would sell Volvo if we could wouldn't we?

Of course. It's in Gothenburg, wherever that is.

So the problem is?

Mercury. There's nothing to sell. They're just Ford knock-offs with a badge. Nobody in their right minds would buy that.

We  know that, but do they? Who's Christensen?

Big lawyer. Runs the sharpest law firm in LA -  Christensen, Glaser, Fink, Jacobs, Weil & Shapiro, LLP.

Snappy name...

He left the firm briefly in 1987 and became president of Kerkorian's Tracinda Corporation when he first owned MGM.

Why's it called Tracinda?

His daughters - Tracy and Linda.

How naff.

Steady Al. Some of the world's finest corporations are named after families.

Sorry boss. Anyway, I don't rate them. I was thinking - that's obviously why they cut us out of their hotels. They don't want us to get a decent night's sleep before we have a meet with them. They're clearly not up to this.

We'll show 'em.

Some time later:

"Well gentlemen. The hour's up. Thanks for coming. We would just like to say that we have the greatest confidence in Mr Mulally's plans to get Ford's share price up - I mean in his plans to sell Volvo and Mercury and execute a favourable recovery plan for the benefit of all Ford's employees and shareholders."

Thank you Mr Kerkorian.

"Just one other little thing before you go. Bit embarrassing. My security people heard a strange story that you were parked up overnight on the Strip in a camper van. Surely some mistake?"

Ah. Uuuum. Huh. I think Mr Mulally will want to answer that one. Al?

Thank you chairman. Yes, that's right. We have just had the most wonderful night's sleep in a Mercury motorhome - far more refreshing than you could get in the finest hotel in America. The Mercury motorhome is to be our secret weapon in selling the brand to the top American businessmen. We have personally delivered it as a gift for you, in recognition of the faith you have shown in our company and its recovery plan. There are three bagels for you in the cool box and Ford-embroidered pyjamas under the pillows. I would now like to present it. 

Sounds of keys pushed across a mahogany table, scraping of chairs and muttered words of appreciation:

We are certain that you will like the Mercury so much you will buy the company.

Some time later on the sidewalk outside the MGM Grand:

Al. You did fine. But one little thing you messed up on. How the hell do we get home now?

It's covered chairman. I called Boeing.

You're a genius son. I think I can safely say that your bonus this year will be a very large number.

Thank you chairman. Let's get a cab to the airport lounge and grab a snooze. I'm knackered.

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