Jim Vella, Meet Harriet Miers

November 6, 2005
Ford chairman and CEO Bill Ford finally determined what the rest of Detroit knew: that former public relations chief Jim Vella has been over his head as the CEO's chief of staff.

Bill Ford on Friday hired his brother-in-law, Steve Hamp, to fill Vella's role. Hamp, who has been running The Henry Ford museum complex, takes over immediately. Vella will become a Ford visiting professor, which means he'll be a guest instructor of something at various universities.

Bill Ford has had some staffing losses of late. Product chief Phil Martens, manufacturing chief Roman Krygier, hybrid technology director Mary Ann Wright, North American plant chief Matt DeMars. He has been nervous about losing other key people as executive bonuses have been cut until the company's profitability substantially improves. Sources say marketing and sales chief Steve Lyons was recently given a three-year contract to keep him from leaving.

Bill Ford is full of earnestness in his attempts to turn the company around. But one thing he has struggled with is judging talent. Vella wasn't making the situation any better. Obviously, the CEO is looking for someone with whom he feels extremely comfortable. But it remains to be seen if Hamp has the depth of knowledge of the company and its staffing to be effective.

I can't help thinking that somwhere in all this there is a Harriet Miers joke.--Jim Burt

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