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Ford may consider CEO succession Thursday

(AP) NEW YORK - Ford's (F) board of directors is meeting this Thursday and CEO succession could be on the agenda.

Bloomberg reported Tuesday that the directors are close to promoting Mark Fields to chief operating officer. The report quoted an unnamed source.

The promotion would make Mr. Fields the probable successor to 67-year-old CEO Alan Mulally.

Ford said the report was speculative and wouldn't confirm it. But the company said it takes succession seriously and has a plan in place for each of its leadership positions.

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At least one board member contacted by The Associated Press referred all questions to Ford.

Mr. Fields, 51, has long been considered a front-runner for the top job. The 23-year veteran of the company developed the restructuring plan that Mr. Mulally used as his blueprint when he came to Ford. As president of the Americas, a job he has held since 2005, Fields has led Ford's North American operations to near-record profits.

Mr. Fields also has significant international experience. He was the president and CEO of Mazda from 2000 to 2002, and led Ford's European operations before taking his current job.

Another frequently mentioned contender is Joe Hinrichs, 45, who is currently presiding over a major Asian expansion as head of Ford's Asia Pacific and African operations.

Mr. Mulally, a former Boeing executive, joined Ford in September 2006. Though he has never said publicly when he will retire, Ford is under pressure to prove it can keep its turnaround on track even after he leaves.

Mr. Mulally is widely known for turning around America's second-largest automaker without a bankruptcy or government bailout. He has now presided over 13 consecutive quarterly profits.

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