Bill Ford says CEO successor likely from within

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By Bernie Woodall

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MACKINAC ISLAND, Michigan (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co <F.N> Executive Chairman Bill Ford said on Friday it is likely that the company will look inside its own ranks for the successor to Chief Executive Alan Mulally, whenever Mulally decides to leave.

Ford said that Mulally, 65, has not signaled that he is near the end of his CEO tenure. He took over a flagging Ford in 2006 and guided it through a turnaround to profitability.

Ford made his comments to reporters on the sidelines of the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual Mackinac Policy Conference in northern Michigan.

Ford said that weekly meetings of Ford executives allow each executive to be involved or at least witness decision-making on the highest level for major company policies. Prior to Mulally's arrival, Ford executives rose in the ranks of the company in a "silo" that created leaders strong in specific areas but not as well-rounded as the current crop of rising executives, Ford said.

"(We'll have) a much better-trained group of executives when Alan does decide to leave," Ford, 54, said. "I actually feel really good about Alan staying. As I say, he loves it, and, obviously, I couldn't be happier with how he's doing.

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"But, also, in terms of the next generation, we're going to have a really strong next generation."

Earlier this year, Ford said that in 2006 he had to go outside the company because the bench was spare on developed talent and many of the top executives were in their first big job.

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Ford said that he finds this week's economic data, including a report of a rise in U.S. unemployment, "troubling."

The Ford scion said that Fiat SpA's <FIA.MI> plan to buy all of the U.S. government's shares in Chrysler Group LLC "is a great thing. Sergio's done a really nice job."

Ford referred to Sergio Marchionne, who took over as Chrysler chief executive in 2009, the year Chrysler went through a government-sponsored bankruptcy.

"Chrysler has always been a very scrappy company in terms of being able to get through tough times. My hat's off to them. I think that from here on in, it's all about executing against our respective plans."

Marchionne told reporters in Toledo, Ohio, on Friday that a Chrysler initial public offering is not likely until 2012.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall, editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Phil Berlowitz)

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