TIME Executives

Rupert Murdoch Is getting Hammered for This Tweet

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman News Corporation looks on during a panel discussion at the B20 meeting of company CEO's on July 17, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. Pool—Getty Images

Media mogul says Google is worse than the NSA when it comes to privacy

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Tom Huddleston, Jr.

Twitter users have spent the past day or so letting Rupert Murdoch know that a billionaire media mogul who has been forced to shutter a newspaper over a phone-hacking scandal might not be an appropriate moral authority when it comes to privacy issues.

Murdoch’s Twitter feed is often full of one-off pieces of commentary on people and events in the news, but the CEO of News Corp and 21st Century Fox lighted upon a fairly touchy subject on Sunday when he fired off the following tweet:

Twitter users quickly took to the social media platform to accuse Murdoch of hypocrisy in criticizing another company’s policies regarding privacy after his former newspaper, the News of the World, endured a phone-hacking scandal that landed more than one editor in prison over the past decade. Several of the replies to Murdoch’s tweet yesterday included some variation on the words “irony” and “hypocrite,” along with references to the News of the World scandal.

Several other users replied by pointing out the trouble with Murdoch’s comparison of the NSA and Google, namely that Google has publicly admitted that it scans users emails to be used in targeted ads, while the NSA has denied charges of domestic spying. Not every Internet user may be thrilled with Google’s practices, but they are still able to choose whether or not to use the company’s products.

TIME Executives

The World’s Most Powerful Men Love This One, Strange Thing

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein Addresses The Investment Company Institute Meeting
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Not exactly what you’d expect

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

By Anne VanderMey

According to Google auto-fill, one of the most searched terms relating to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is, “What watch does Lloyd Blankfein wear?”

We have the answer: It’s a Swatch, a simple plastic timepiece that retails in the ballpark of $100. In fact, the executive has several of them—including a black one for formal events.

If you work on Wall Street, you’ve probably seen the look before: good suit, unremarkable shoes, digital watch. Witness Steve Schwarzman, CEO of Blackstone. Schwarzman not only owns multiple Swatches, he wears them in funky colors and designs. One particularly bright-colored edition bears the landmarks of his vacation home in St. Tropez.

Public-facing figures like Schwarzman and Blankfein may be expected to dress without excessive bling. And yet, as Google attests, it’s curious to see a plastic bangle on some of American business’s most powerful men. The list of power players who sport Swatches goes on: Tony Blair has one, as does French president Francois Hollande. U.K. hedge fund trader Chris Hohn has had a black one for years. AllianceBernstein CEO Peter Kraus is a fan of the brand. Even the boss of luxury watch maker Patek Phillipe reportedly wears one while skiing.

In a statement to Fortune, Switzerland’s Swatch Group didn’t have much to say about why politicians and executives might want to wear the budget accessory. The company’s Swiss roots and artistic designs may play a role, a spokeswoman said. When the Swatch was introduced as an alternative to Asian mass production in the 1980s, it was credited with helping to save the Swiss watchmaking industry. Ultimately, though, the watch brand’s patronage among the high and mighty is a bit of a mystery. “We assume that politicians have their reasons for wearing our watches,” the spokeswoman wrote, “but we don’t know what those reasons are.”

For the rest of the story, please visit Fortune.com.

TIME compensation

These Are the 15 Highest-Paid Women in America

Stanford University SIEPR Economic Summit
Safra Catz, co-president of Oracle Corp. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last year was a banner year for executive compensation

Corporate America is still largely run by men. But women are catching up. According to the Harvard Business Review, “Sixty percent of the top U.S. companies now have at least two women on their executive committees.” Female leaders have dominated headlines in recent years, leading mergers, overseeing IPOs, acquiring companies, and defining their organizations’ overall strategy. So who are these powerful women? Research engine FindTheBest studied public company filings with the SEC to find out, compiling the following list of the 15 highest compensated female executives of 2013.

Perhaps the best-known name from the list above is Sheryl Sandberg, who served as VP of sales and operations at Google before joining Facebook as COO in 2008. The Lean In author has since helped Facebook through a shaky IPO and refined the company’s increasingly important mobile strategy. She earned $16.1 million in total annual compensation in 2013.

Also an ex-Google exec is Marissa Mayer, who left her position as a VP in 2012 to help bring Yahoo—then floundering to stay afloat—back above water as CEO. During her first year, Mayer acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion and saw Yahoo’s stock prices rise by 73 percent. She returned $3 billion back to shareholders through selling Yahoo’s stake in Alibaba (a Chinese e-commerce company) and, in the process, made $24.9 million for herself.

Another powerhouse from the tech world, Meg Whitman made $17.6 million in 2013. Although she’s the former CEO of eBay and current CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Whitman’s credentials extend beyond tech. She’s held executive positions at a swath of companies including Hasbro Inc., The Stride Rite Corporation (a footwear company), Bain & Company and Walt Disney. She also ran for CA governor in 2010.

Although Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Meg Whitman are among the biggest household names for female execs, none of them took the spot of top earner. Number one went to the CFO of Oracle, Safra Catz. Not only did Catz make more than did any other female executive ($44.3 million), but she topped the The Wall Street Journal’s report of the highest paid CFO’s in 2013, earning more than every male CFO. This article was written for TIME by Kiran Dhillon of FindTheBest.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s What to Do If Your Boss Kind of Hates You

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J.A. Bracchi—Getty Images

In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that's not the case

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

In an ideal world, we’d all get along great with everybody we report to. Here’s what to do if that isn’t happening.

Dear Annie: I’ve had my current job as a human resources manager for about a year-and-a-half, and everything was going fine until we got a new boss from outside the department. He seems to have a need to do everything himself. I’ve also come across instances where he has snooped behind my back to find out what I’ve been doing. Today, I found out he asked my admin for details of my attendance at the office, “just to check” on me.

At the same time, he is really nice to other members of my team, which leads me to conclude that, for some reason, he just doesn’t like me. In the beginning, I tried to build a rapport with him but, after being snubbed more than once, I just don’t want to make the effort any more. Is there anything I can do, besides find a new boss? — Odd Man Out

Dear O.M.O.: You probably don’t want to hear this but, if you want to stay in this job, you’re going to have to keep trying. “This is hard, because you have to humble yourself a little and find a way to see things from this manager’s point of view,” says Karin Hurt, CEO of Baltimore-based executive coaching firm Let’s Grow Leaders. She wrote a book, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship with Your Boss, that you might find useful.

A good starting point: Assume nothing. The fact that this boss came in from the outside is significant, because it means he may be used to doing things in a different way. “A certain amount of micromanagement and what looks like ‘snooping’ may just be standard behavior in the organization he came from,” Hurt notes. “It’s annoying, but it doesn’t necessarily mean he doesn’t like you.”

For the rest of the story, go to Fortune.com.

TIME Apple

Apple Execs Ranked by Their Keynote Performances

Apple’s keynotes have always had a certain mystique, complete with seamless product demos, smooth promotional videos, and a class-of-the-industry organizational flow. While a great product can sometimes speak for itself, it’s the people behind the performances that really sell these events, from Phil Schiller to Tim Cook to Craig Federighi.

With that said, not every Apple exec can sell a $600 device like Steve Jobs. We watched Apple keynotes over the last seven years with an eye for style, strengths and weaknesses.

Here’s what we found:

Apple’s Best Keynote Speakers

6. Tim Cook

Likes: memorizing lines, rehearsing

Dislikes: improvisation

 

Cook’s never been especially engaging as a speaker, with a slow and steady demeanor that borders on over-rehearsed. It doesn’t help that he tends to cover the least interesting content, whether that’s how fast tickets sold out or why Apple just built an Apple Store in Berlin.

Like the iPhone itself, however, Cook has improved incrementally over the years, sounding less memorized and more relaxed, particularly during Monday’s WWDC keynote. He’s also learned to hand the stage over quickly, which has allowed Cook to play the snappy tour guide instead of the dawdling storyteller.

Finest moment: The beginning of the 2014 WWDC keynote

5. Scott Forstall

Likes: being smarter than you

Dislikes: acknowledging mistakes

 

The former Apple executive used to be a keynote staple, serving as Jobs’ #2 presenter in the years following the launch of the iPhone. Forstall was never bad, but he carried a certain smugness on stage, a tendency made worse by controversial releases like Siri and Apple Maps. He had a habit of pointing to the scoreboard (ex: sales, overall satisfaction) in the face of legitimate customer grievances (ex: Game Center, directions).

To be fair, his iOS expertise and raw intelligence always made Forstall a competent presenter, but the attitude behind the words carries a lasting legacy.

In sports, commentators often say that underdog teams in big games are “just happy to be there.” For Forstall, it was the opposite. Of course he should be there. He was the best.

Finest moment: Forstall’s 2011 presentation on iOS 5

4. Phil Schiller

Likes: geeky stats

Dislikes: basic but necessary information

 

Schiller is a fine presenter: knowledgeable, well-rehearsed, properly-paced—you know, the sort of guy Microsoft would kill to have on hand for its next Surface announcement. Still, Schiller’s routine is predictable. He winds up slowly, hits peak enthusiasm when covering the geekiest details (ex: breaking down a MacBook’s internals), then lands with a bit of a thud when he finally gets around to summary details (ex: pricing, release date).

That said, Schiller’s sensible, everyman demeanor works to great comic effect when he’s forced to do a funny FaceTime chat or physical stunt. Though the most absurd routines have tapered off in recent years, he was once Steve Jobs’ most trusted comedic sidekick. Crucially, Schiller’s play acting always comes off as more reluctant than showy, making him the one Apple presenter whose jokes never seem the least bit arrogant.

Finest moment: Schiller’s “death dive” gag in 1999

3. Jony Ive

Likes: high-minded, philosophical musing

Dislikes: physical stages

 

With phrases like “crystalline diamonds,” “unapologetically plastic,” and “highly-polished chamfered edge,” it’s a miracle Ive can get through Apple’s product videos with a straight face. But Jony’s magic always comes along about halfway through each video, where, despite all the platitudes, Jimmy Kimmel jokes and YouTube spoof videos, you find yourself nodding along. As a matter of fact, I do want a phone with a “bespoke assembly” and “a clear lacquer hard coat.”

Only Ive would describe electronic gadgets in such lofty, ludicrous terms…and yet, only Ive could pull it all off. While he doesn’t do keynotes, Ive has become such a staple in Apple product videos that he deserves mention on this list.

Finest moment: Selling a plastic, year-old phone (iPhone 5c) as “the distillation of what people love about the iPhone 5.”

2. Craig Federighi

Likes: everything

Dislikes: nothing

 

A rising star and natural speaker, Federighi is by far the most charismatic presenter currently at the company. Regardless of the product, topic or audience response, he emits an unwavering, boyish enthusiasm, beaming his way through spec lists, bad jokes, and routine product demos. Before 2012, he was a small-time extra, lucky to be on stage for 10 minutes at a time. Since then, he’s become the face of Apple’s keynotes, presenting for nearly 50% of WWDC 2013, and fully 70% of Monday’s event.

Federighi’s not perfect: he loves sprinkling his comments with empty superlatives (“incredible,” “awesome,” “really nice”), while his constantly cheerful buzz leaves little room for emphasis (how do we know what’s important and what’s not?). But his ability to make 78 minutes of keynote fly by faster than an episode of Silicon Valley makes him easily the best presenter of all current Apple employees.

Finest moment: Owning the stage for 70% of the 2014 WWDC keynote

1. Steve Jobs

Likes: bold, blanket statements

Dislikes: unreceptive audiences

 

In the end, of course, there can only be one choice for Apple’s greatest presenter: Jobs himself. With the confidence of Forstall, the mesmerizing qualities of Ive and the enthusiasm of Federighi, Jobs combined the strengths of his successors to sell everything from the iMac to the iPhone. Jobs also had the Clintonian ability to make people believe something just by saying it. Ive needs pleasant music, a white background, expensive machinery and a non-specific European accent to convince people: all Jobs had to do was open his mouth.

Jobs did have a speaking flaw—he would get visibly annoyed at his own audience when they didn’t respond how he expected—but his various gifts far outweighed the occasional flash of temper.

Apple might still be able to put on a show, but today it needs four guys to do it. Before, one was enough.

Finest moment: Announcing “three revolutionary products” in 2007

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME

One of CEOs’ Most Powerful Tools Is Starting to Look Dull

NYSE Opens For Trading A Day After Major Losses
John Moore—Getty Images

A lot has been made in recent years of the record amount of corporate cash on the balance sheets–around $2 trillion in U.S., and the same amount in firms’ bank accounts abroad–as well as the fact that companies aren’t spending it. But the latter isn’t totally true. Firms have shelled out some cash, just not by investing in factories or equipment or new workers. They’ve done it with share buybacks, which involves a firm buying back its own shares on the open market. This almost inevitably raises a company’s share price, thus enriching existing shareholders.

Many companies see this as a more flexible way of returning cash to shareholders than giving out dividends, because they don’t have to set and meet specific dividend targets but can just buyback shares as and when they like. But some critics say that it’s just a way to make the rich richer, without actually putting a firm’s capital to use creating jobs and growth in some more sustainable way. Either way, it’s been one of the major trends in the market in the last five years. As I’ve written in many stories, including this cover profile of Carl Icahn, the volume of share buybacks in the US has been at record levels in recent years. Indeed, the total volume of buybacks in the first quarter of this year amongst S&P companies was higher than it’s been since the third quarter of 2007, before the subprime crisis really got going.

Now, that’s changing. As a new report by London-based Capital Economics points out, share buybacks have begun to slow just a little bit. Having risen by more than the broader market in each of the last five years, the S & P 500 Buyback Index has risen by less than that so far in 2014. To understand what that might mean for the markets, you have to understand what the history of share buyback data actually tells us.

The most interesting research on this topic has been done by William Lazonick, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, whom I’ve written about in the past. His data show that while firms may want you to think that buybacks are a vote of confidence in their own stock, buybacks are typically done not during bear markets in which stocks are undervalued, but during bull markets, particularly end bull markets, when companies are trying to ride a wave of price increases that have little to do with fundamentals. Indeed, Lazonick shows that while buybacks provide a short-term sugar hit, they tend to go hand in hand with lower margins and growth prospects over the longer term (paging Apple and Yahoo). That may be because if you look at four decades of data, buybacks tend to increase at the same time that spending on research and development is falling. In short, companies pay out their seed corn to investors, rather than re-investing in themselves by developing new businesses, hiring or retraining workers, building new factories, etc., etc.

I think the fact buybacks are now slowing could foreshadow a larger market slowdown, or even a broader correction in stocks (the Capital folks agree). We’ve already seen a correction, of course, in very over valued areas like technology and certain emerging markets. And the fact that the big blue chips are finally starting to buy back less of their own stock could indicate that they see a slowdown coming, too.

Ultimately, the valuation of stocks reflects the future earning potential of companies. While there are lot of things in the economic environment right now that are good for companies–interest rates are still low, the U.S. economy is improving–I keep thinking about the fact that people having gotten a raise in five years. As long as wages stay flat, and spending is relatively constrained, it’s hard to imagine the market staying this high forever. The slowing of share buybacks may turn out to be the canary in that particular coal mine.

TIME compensation

Target’s Ousted CEO Will Make $15.9 Million in Severance

Target Bob DeRhodes
Exterior signage of the Target Store in Torrance, Calif. Patrick T. Fallon—Bloomberg/Getty Images

The man who led Target during a data breach that compromised the personal information of as many as 110 million customers will make $15.9 million through his severance package, according to a newly released SEC filing.

Greg Steinhafel, who worked at Target for 35 years and was named CEO in 2008, was fired from the company earlier this month following last fall’s massive data breach, in which hackers stole credit and debit card information for 40 million Target customers and names, phone numbers, addresses or email addresses of 70 million customers. The breach was one of the largest security lapses in corporate history.

The monetary package is a combination of direct severance pay, pension funds and vested stock awards. In addition to the $15.9 million, Steinhafel will continue to draw his base annual salary of $1.5 million, as well as benefits, while he serves in an advisory role until August. In 2013 Steinhafel earned $13 million in total compensation, down from $20.6 million the previous year.

Target is not yet done reshuffling its executive suite. Today the company announced that it was firing the president of its Canadian division and realigning its merchandising team in the U.S. to improve performance.

TIME

6 Simple Rules for Simplifying Everything

In their new book from Harvard Business Review Press—Six Simple Rules: How To Manage Complexity Without Getting Complicated—Boston Consulting Group partners Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman make a valiant attempt at helping increasingly complex organizations improve their performance in an increasingly complex world. We asked Morieux to be similarly valiant in boiling down their rules for Time.com readers. (You’re welcome!)

1. Understand what your employees actually do. “Most management approaches pay less attention to the day-to-day reality of how people behave and why, and instead add unnecessary functions and procedures. We use the term ‘smart simplicity’ to describe the approach of discovering what people actually do and why. The central insight? People act rationally, even if their actions create problems for the organization. They are trying to look after their own interests. The essence of smart simplicity is to understand that, and then change the conditions inside the organization so their interests align with what you need them to do.”

2. Find your fighters. Conflict is not necessarily a good thing in and of itself. But it can be a sign that people are actually doing the hard work of cooperating, which can be difficult and create tension and resentment. But the people who are resented might be the glue that holds cooperation together. We call them ‘integrators.’ They’re often not in positions of formal power. They often operate at the intersection between two groups. They have an interest in cooperation and the power to make collaboration happen.Integrators can be well-liked, but they can also be resented. They are forcing others to make hard choices. You can identify integrators by the fact that they are the focus of strong feelings, either positive or negative. Give integrators the power, incentives and authority to succeed.”

3. Give more people more power… “The real key to performance is combining cooperation with autonomy. The problem with standard approaches to an increasingly complex business environment is that by creating new layers and processes and systems to deal with these challenges you also sacrifice people’s autonomy. That makes the organization less agile. One of the effects of smart simplicity is to balance autonomy and cooperation. It gives people enough power to take the risk of interpreting rules, using their judgment and intelligence. If more employees have power to make decisions in your organization, that means they can solve problems on their own.

4. …and take away resources from everybody. “Having fewer resources means people have no choice but to rely on each other, which helps to foster cooperation. Think of a household with several people living in it. If those people own multiple televisions, there is no need for them to cooperate about what to watch. But if you take away all the televisions except one, they will have to cooperate. Do they want to watch baseball or Shakespeare?”

5. Make sure your employees eat their own cooking. “People work better when they understand–and have to live with–the consequences of their actions. A car company’s products were famously hard to repair. Then the company sent its engineers to work in repairs. Confronted with the repair problem themselves, they quickly found solutions to make cars easier to fix.”

6. Don’t punish failure—punish the failure to cooperate. “If people are afraid to fail, they will hide problems from you and your peers. Reward people who surface problems—and punish those who don’t come together to help solve them.”

TIME

Here Are the Top 10 Highest-Paid Executives Under 40

Jonathan Kitchen—Getty Images

If you’re the cheerful, satisfied sort—happy with your job, duties, and compensation—you may want to shuffle along to the next article. Keep the peace of mind you have. Cherish it. And whatever you do, forget that the following ten young executives pocketed over $5 million in 2013 alone.

Figures are from public SEC filings.

Note #1: total compensation includes stock awards and other bonuses: annual salary is typically just a small fraction.

Note #2: a few companies—like Yahoo—have yet to file their proxies, leaving one or two likely candidates (hey there, Marissa Mayer!) off this list.

Note #3: Where’s Mark Zuckerberg? Many famous young entrepreneurs do not make this list for two reasons. First, some well-known founders—like Zuck—take a very small salary, often $1 per year. Companies like Facebook save the big checks for all-star second-in-commands, where they need to lure top people away from other firms. Second, this is a list of 2013 compensation, so individuals who made a big splash—or got a large stock award—last year are more likely to win a place on the list.

 

10. Patrick Söderlund – Electronic Arts – $5.19 million

The video game industry has stumbled along lately, between Nintendo sales woes and garbage freemium games littered throughout mobile app stores. Nevertheless, Electronic Arts (EA) has remained consistent, churning out reliable blockbusters and even some decent mobile games.

EA owes part of its ongoing success to Patrick Söderlund, 39, racecar fanatic and international games guru. Currently an executive vice president at EA, he leads development on big game series like Battlefield and Need for Speed.

9. Andrew Wilson – Electronic Arts – $5.63 million

Obsessed with sports—including both virtual games and real-world leagues—Andrew Wilson rose through EA’s ranks largely through directing the company’s wildly popular FIFA franchise. He was appointed CEO in 2013, at the age of 39.

8. Ryan McInerney – Visa – $7.39 million

Ryan McInerney is only 38, but his resumè reads like a six-decade-long career. First, he worked as a principal consultant at McKinsey & Company. Next, he joined JP Morgan Chase, where he helped create and launch the company’s first mobile banking product. At 34, he was picked to lead the company’s entire consumer banking division, which put McInerney in charge of over 75,000 employees. Visa then lured him away in 2013, where he now serves as the credit company’s president.

7. Mark Tarchetti – Newell Rubbermaid – $7.87 million

It turns out you don’t always need to work in finance or tech to make a multimillion-dollar fortune. Mark Tarchetti, 38, is the executive vice president at Newell Rubbermaid, the company best known for its popular line of tupperware products. Of course, selling plastic, airtight kitchenware isn’t going to make you rich on its own—the company also owns a variety of writing brands, like Sharpie, Paper Mate, Expo and Uni-Ball. Today, Tarchetti leads much of the company’s research and development initiatives.

6. Hari Ravichandran – Endurance International Group – $9.6 million

Hari Ravichandran, 37, is the founder and CEO of Endurance International Group, a company that owns a variety of Internet brands (such as HostGator, Homestead, and Bluehost) and can be best described with a flurry of trendy tech phrases like “cloud-based” and “big data.”

5. Ryan Blair – Blyth – $9.61 million

CEO of ViSalus Science (a subsidiary of Blyth, Inc.), Ryan Blair, 36, focuses on weight management, dietary supplements, and energy drinks. He’s perhaps better known, however, as the gang-member-to-CEO who wrote about his experiences in the appropriately-titled, Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain.

4. Sardar Biglari – Biglari Holdings – $10.9 million

Sardar Biglari, 36, began building Biglari Holdings at 18, a company that today employs over 22,000 people and contains six different subsidiary companies, including Steak ‘n Shake and Western Sizzlin. Several publications have compared the company to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, the Fortune 500 business that grew through Buffett’s smart acquisitions and investments.

3. Stephen Gillett – Symantec – $11.5 million

Stephen Gillett (36) first gained national attention after becoming the chief information officer at Starbucks in 2008, though his résumé includes such prominent companies as Yahoo, CNET Networks and Sun Microsystems. More recently, he became Best Buy’s executive vice president, but he moved on to Symantec after only nine months. It seems even Gillett couldn’t slow the downward slide of big box electronics stores.

2. Michael Schroepfer – Facebook – $12.6 million

Michael Schroepfer (39) has been a rising technical star at Facebook for years, moving from director to vice president to chief technical officer, a post he reached in 2013. Before Facebook, he had led development on Mozilla’s once-popular Firefox browser.

1. James S. Levin – Och-Ziff Capital Management – $119 million

The 31-year-old hedge fund trader is also an extreme outlier. Forget under 40-year-olds: he made more in 2013 than anyone, even Oracle’s Lawrence J. Ellison ($81.8 million), due to some very generous stock awards. James S. Levin first made national news in 2012 when he bet $7 billion (a third of Och-Ziff’s total assets) and made the company nearly $2 billion in one trade, accounting for over half of Och-Ziff’s annual profit. Last year, he received $119 million in stock, earning him more than the nine other men on this list combined.

TIME Autos

Here Are the Huge Challenges Ford’s Next CEO Faces

Day One Of The Geneva Motor Show 2014
Mark Fields, chief operating officer of Ford Motor Co. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

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This post is in partnership with Fortune, which offers the latest business and finance news. Read the article below originally published at Fortune.com.

Mark Fields, who has been the heir apparent to Alan Mulally, may soon be designated Mulally’s successor as chief executive officer of the Ford Motor Company.

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Mulally, 68, will retire before the end of the year and that Fields, 53, a 25-year Ford veteran will succeed him. Ford (F), officially, was tight-lipped. The No. 2 automaker may be proceeding cautiously due to its inglorious history of high-level management succession pratfalls, going back decades.

Fields was elevated to his present position about 18 months ago, which more or less entrenched him as Mulally’s successor. Keeping him in the job without acknowledging his path to CEO may have been a way to see how well he did with the No. 2 post before promoting him. Meanwhile, Mulally confused the issue a bit by putting himself in play last year to succeed Steve Ballmer at CEO of Microsoft (MSFT), a post he didn’t get.

MORE: Ford’s aluminum secret weapon

Mulally’s arrival at Ford Motor in 2006 from Boeing came at a critical moment for the automaker. Burdened by a weak balance sheet, Ford earlier in the year had begun securing massive loans to pursue new product programs, collateralizing the borrowings with the company’s assets, including its brand. Two years later, during the global financial crisis, Ford could have faced bankruptcy like General Motors (GM) and Chrysler did, had it failed to secure early financing.

The former Boeing executive’s main contribution to Ford was cultural, forcing the automaker and its top executives to simplify the company’s business strategy and to work in harmony with one another. A relentlessly positive figure, Mulally represented a breath of fresh air at a place known for its vicious internal politics and tumultuous executive rivalries.

Lee Iacocca, who steered the Mustang to overwhelming market success, was booted from the presidency of Ford Motor by Henry Ford II in 1978. Jac Nasser ran afoul of the Ford family in 2001 and suffered a similar fate.

MORE: 50 years of the Ford Mustang

Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman, appearing on Bloomberg television on April 16, said “a lot of great CEOs leave, and then there’s chaos behind them. Alan and I have talked about that — the importance of the final act of a great CEO is having a great transition.”

Susan Krusel, a Ford spokesperson, offered the following prepared statement: “We do not comment on speculation. We take succession planning very seriously, and we have succession plans in place for each of our key leadership positions. For competitive reasons, we do not discuss our succession plans externally. There is no change from our previous announcements. If something were to change, we would let everyone know.”

Fields will face some formidable challenges as CEO: First, Ford Motor lacks a serious luxury franchise, its Lincoln Motor Car Company still in the early stages of renovation. Second, the automaker’s operations in Europe have been chronically unprofitable and are a drag on earnings. Third, the automaker’s most profitable market, the U.S., is wholly reliant on its large pickups and, thus, needs to improve profitability of passenger cars.

It would be a tall order for any CEO.

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