It was probably Lisa, Bill’s missus, who decided that they needed to get someone in. After all, Bill has made a splendid mess of the family finances.

When in October 2001 he took over as chief executive having been chairman only, for the previous three years, shares were US$28 and now there is no twenty involved. They are just plain eight. The Ford family have 5% of the stock which means at today’s price they are down to the last US$750m in shares compared with the near three billion when Bill got started. Two and a quarter billion is a bit much to hose away.

Then there was that famous gesture last year when he bravely said that he wouldn’t draw a salary while the US auto business was still in losses. At the AGM last year, he said the he would take no compensation at all until the autos business was fixed.

In my household, the conversation over breakfast would have gone very much like this: “So, Bill. You are not earning anything. The shares have dived. The family fortune has been reduced to shreds. The auto business is worse than ever. Are you sure you are in the right job?”

“Can I stay on as chairman Leese?”

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“Go on then, but get someone in fast. You’ll be 50 next year and we want a decent bash for the family.”

“Shall we try old Alan Mulally?”

“Yeah. Good idea Bill.  He should be interested. He has been passed over twice for the top job at Boeing so he might be desperate enough by now.”

“And the other thing Leese, is that he always said he made a success of Boeing’s revival with the Boeing 777 because he studied Ford’s success in developing Taurus.

“So really, if he turns round great grandad’s firm for us, we can tell everyone that it’s because he learned it all from us?”

“I like your thinking.”

“Well gimme the phone. I’ll just ring that Goldman Sachs geezer who we borrowed to tell us what to do, and ask him if he’s OK with that.”

“OK Bill. But make it snappy. You’ve got a lot of jobs to do around the house now you’re not earning.”

“But I’ve got all that charity work to do now.”

“Bill. Let’s be clear about this. You’re a really decent bloke. But you’ve given away sackfulls of cash with every car sold for years. You gave away more than US$10,000 to everyone who bought a new Jaguar last year. That’s quite enough charity work for one lifetime.”

“See what you mean Leese. Any chance of another bacon bap?”

“Go and make it yourself. Better still get Mulally to make it.”

Rob Golding

See also: Ford looks to Boeing man to make Ford fly

and:  I’ll bring in top talent to any position, even my own – Bill Ford