(Adds first name of Ford CEO in paragraph 2)
DETROIT May 22 Ford Motor Co's new chief
executive officer transformed office furniture maker Steelcase
Inc into a global leader, but in Michigan, he may be
more revered as the man who turned around a troubled college
Ford Executive Chairman William Clay Ford Jr., whose family
owns the Detroit Lions football team, pointed to James Hackett's
accomplishments as the University of Michigan's interim athletic
director in 2015 while a Ford board member.
"When they asked him to come fix the athletic department, he
said, 'Sure, I'd be happy to,'" Ford said at a news conference
on Monday. "He then hired Jim Harbaugh (as head football coach)
and left the department in much better shape than he found it."
Hackett, an Ohio native who played football at U-M under
legendary coach Bo Schembechler, has run Ford Smart Mobility, a
new unit established to oversee and coordinate the company's
forays in autonomous driving, ridesharing and other ventures,
since March 2016.
Before that, as CEO of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based
Steelcase from 1994 to 2014, Hackett slashed thousands of jobs.
He also began to reinvigorate and refocus the company on
innovation, spearheaded by his 1996 purchase of renowned Silicon
Valley design firm IDEO.
Inspired by IDEO's open-space designs, Hackett and Steelcase
"reinvented the workplace, starting in Silicon Valley, and
redesigned America's offices," said Marc Weiser, managing
director of RPM Ventures, a venture capital firm based in Ann
Arbor and San Francisco.
Hackett joined Ford's board in 2013, ahead of his retirement
As chairman of Smart Mobility, he has helped oversee Ford's
acquisition of San Francisco ride sharing startup Chariot and
its $1 billion investment in Argo AI, a self-driving startup
focused on robotics and artificial intelligence.
Bill Ford said Hackett, who reports to him, "has been a
catalyst for innovation" at the automaker. The new CEO will help
"unlock the full potential of our people and our business" as
the company attempts to transform itself into a broad-based
provider of transportation services.
Hackett's promotion to CEO and president "is not about
making factories more efficient or cutting workers," said
Instead, he said, Hackett will change the way people think
of Ford. "It's about changing hearts and minds."
(Reporting by Paul Lienert, Alana Wise and Joe White in
Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)