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Ford family members weigh stake sale

From Bloomberg| May 15,2007

Ford Motor Co.'s(F.N: Quote, Profile, Research founding family members are weighing the sale of a part of their controlling stake in the automaker, Bloomberg reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.

The status of discussions by the Ford family was not immediately clear, but the prospect of a sale of the number two automaker comes as its smaller rival Chrysler Group faces sale to a private equity firm.

A proposal to limit Ford's Class B shares, which represent less than 4 percent of outstanding shares but give the founding family 40 percent voting power, was voted down at Ford's annual meeting last week.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr., the great grandson of founder Henry Ford, has repeatedly defended the dual stock structure as a benefit to shareholders.

Bloomberg reported that Bill Ford Jr. briefed directors on the Ford family members' views before the shareholders meeting.

Last month some family members also wanted to hire investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners to advise on a share sale or alternative strategies, the news agency said.

A Ford representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

The news of the talks comes as Ford attempts to engineer a turnaround from last year's record $12.6 billion loss and reinvent itself as a leaner and more flexible competitor.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally told reporters after the shareholder meeting last Thursday in Delaware that Ford family members were "very, very supportive of the changes" the auto maker is making. "They are shareholders; they believe in Ford and want Ford to be successful," he said then.

A source familiar with the matters told Reuters on Sunday that Cerberus Capital Management was close to striking a deal to buy Chrysler Group, the Detroit-based number three automaker behind Ford.

All three U.S. automakers lost money in 2006, hurt by a combination of rising health care and material costs, restructuring charges and a shift in consumer tastes away from the trucks and SUVs that had generated a major share of their earnings.

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