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Support declines but Ford family retain control

The Ford family, who control the US-based carmaker of the same name, won a shareholder vote on 12 May to retain the multiple voting shares through which they control the company.

The Ford family, who control the US-based carmaker of the same name, won a shareholder vote on 12 May to retain the multiple voting shares through which they control the company.

The proposal to dismantle the group’s two-tier share system was rejected at the company’s annual shareholder meeting by a 68.5% majority, Ford said in a statement.

Despite Ford having its most profitable year since 2000, the vote to keep the two-tier share system was passed by a 2% smaller majority than in 2010. This is the seventh year this has been voted on, and every year support for the family has declined.

But family support for the company has remained strong. Fourth-generation chairman Bill Ford Jr declined a salary for five years, while the company was struggling financially. Ford pledged to forgo his compensation until the company was in a stronger financial position, hoping to provide stability to the company during the worst of the crisis – he began receiving a salary again in July 2010 (Continue reading here).

Reports suggest that shareholders rejected the bid as the family’s involvement in the company helped in its strong rebound. But the decline in support also suggests that some shareholders are reconsidering the family’s control.

The two-tier stock structure has been in place since 1956 when the automaker became a public company. The family have 40% voting rights through their 71 million Class B shares. Founded in 1903, Ford Jr works alongside four other family members, including three fifth-generation cousins.

Ford was the only US carmaker not to receive government aid to prevent bankruptcy during the financial crisis. It reported losses of nearly $15 billion in 2008, but rebounded the following year with profits of $454 million.

The group had 2010 revenues of $128.9 billion, up from $116.2 billion the previous year.

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