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Jon Huntsman Jr. joins Ford board of directors

By Tom Krisher

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Feb. 9 2012 9:10 a.m. MST

Republican presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman waves after addressing a press conference to annouce he is bowing out from the presidential race in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, January 16, 2012. Huntsman, the former US ambassador to China, ended his presidential bid Monday and called on Republicans to unite in support of frontrunner Mitt Romney. AFP PHOTO/Emmanuel Dunand (Photo credit should read EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

EMMANUEL DUNAND, AFP/Getty Images

DETROIT — Two top Ford executives who helped lead the company's comeback from financial disaster are retiring, but CEO Alan Mulally says he has no plans to leave.

Lewis Booth, the company's chief financial officer, and Derrick Kuzak, its global product development chief, will both retire on April 1. Both were once were among the front-runners to replace the 66-year-old Mulally, who was hired away from aviation giant Boeing Co. in 2006 to rescue Ford.

Mulally promoted Vice President and Controller Bob Shanks, to succeed Booth. Vice President of Engineering and Product Development Raj Nair, will replace Kuzak. Mulally told reporters on a conference call that the promotions were part of the company's succession plan for every top management position.

Company insiders say the leading candidates to replace Mulally are now Americas President Mark Fields, Asia Pacific and Africa President Joe Hinrichs and Ford of Europe CEO Stephen Odell.

On Thursday, Mulally wouldn't talk about when he will leave the company or who might succeed him. "I have no plans to retire, and I'm absolutely thrilled and honored to continue to serve Ford," he said.

Kuzak and Booth each served more than three decades with the Dearborn, Michigan, company, but their most important years were the last five when Ford turned itself around after borrowing billions to stay in business.

Booth led Ford's financial operations through the banking crisis in 2008. He helped the company repay much of the debt it took out to survive the financial crisis and Great Recession. Kuzak is credited with shifting Ford's focus from trucks to cars, and leading moves to cut engineering costs.

Also Thursday, Ford's board appointed former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman as an additional company director.

Ford's stock price fell 3 cents, or less than 1 percent, to $12.81, in early trading.

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AP Business Writer Samantha Bomkamp in New York contributed to this report.

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