DETROIT: Hand-in-hand with William Clay Ford Jr.'s installation as
Ford's new CEO, Jim Vella, executive director of corporate
communications, is poised to take the top job of VP, corporate
His likely appointment follows the ousting of Jason Vines, who was
deposed CEO Jac Nasser's right-hand man. An official announcement of
Vella's promotion is expected early this week.
Vella has experience working with new CEO Ford Jr., a qualification
considered a must by Ford observers. He will need to deal with the media
fallout over the very public rift between Ford and Nasser, forced out of
the company last week.
Rumors of Nasser's expulsion had been circulating in auto circles for
months. A series of setbacks, including the Ford-Firestone tire
controversy, quality problems with Ford models, and falling profits, had
tarnished Nasser over the past two years.
While Ford Jr. initially stayed in the background during the Firestone
battle, he began raising his visibility this year as talk circulated
that the Ford family was becoming increasingly concerned about Nasser's
handling of tough issues.
Ford Jr., in some of his first public comments since taking over the top
spot, said that he plans to address basic issues of profitability and
quality. He appointed Nick Scheele, formerly head of Ford Europe and
known as "Mr. Fix-It" for the work he did turning Jaguar around, as his
new COO, a move that garnered favorable media reaction.
Vella will need to position Ford Jr. as taking decisive action to right
the company's recent wrongs. The new CEO is well-regarded in auto
circles, and has even garnered friends in the environmental movement by
calling for Ford to make its vehicles more energy-efficient.
Internally, Vella will need to address issues of worker morale brought
on by ongoing cost-cutting and workforce reductions initiated by
Ford generally handles tough PR challenges internally, having no agency
of record, although it has used agencies such as Strat@comm and John
Bailey & Associates for various products or divisions.
Vella's chief rival for the top spot was Joe Greenwell, VP of
communications and public affairs with Ford Europe. His ties to Scheele
caused his name to surface as a possible successor to Vines.
- Joined in 1988 as a producer for the Ford Communications Network,
overseeing employee TV programs
- Progressed through Ford's public affairs department, holding such
positions as broadcast news manager, regional news manager for the
Northeast, and director of public affairs for Ford's global
- Named executive director of corporate communications in June 2000,
after serving as director of global operations for public affairs.