Former-Ford Exec now CEO of GKN Plc amid turmoil

Whoa, someone call Shonda Rhimes. There has to be a backstory to this that is worthy of the screenwriter that has mastered the television show, Scandal. Let’s look at this in a way only Rhimes could.

The press release from GKN was direct, “Kevin Cummings, previously CEO Designate, will leave the Board and GKN with immediate effect.” The Board has asked Anne Stevens, currently a non-executive director of the Board, to assume the role of Interim Chief Executive with effect from 1 January 2018 until a successor is appointed. As planned, Nigel Stein will continue as Chief Executive until he retires from the role on 31 December 2017.

Now, if this were a country, say Russia, I would speculate that Putin (or Stein in this case) wanted to stay in charge and had found a way to oust Cummings (or Alexei Navalny in this case) without jailing or killing. But Stein is still leaving at the end of 2017, so why was Cummings ousted before he even became CEO?

Immediate effect? There are only a couple of reasons one is asked, nary, told, to leave with immediate effect and neither of those situations is good. As far as we know there were no Sillitoe Tartans escorting him out, but many questions will remain unanswered about why an Executive, since 2008, was dethroned and immediately expelled.

Strategically, bringing Stevens in is a smart move. She has extensive experience in both automotive and aerospace industries. She is a former Chairman, CEO, and President of Carpenter Technology Corp, a specialty metals producer for the aerospace, transportation, medical and energy sectors. She was appointed to the GKN Board in July 2016. She is also a non-executive director of Anglo American plc, Lockheed Martin Corporation, and XL Group plc.

While GKN is best known for aerospace, it also has business with a couple of automotive groups. Stevens held a number of roles during a 16-year career at Ford Motor Company, leaving Ford as Chief Operating Officer for the Americas. When Ford brought Mulally in as CEO Stevens left, Fields stayed, ostensibly setting himself up to become the next CEO of Ford Motor Corporation, only to be ousted a couple of years later.

GKN says they are expecting a write-off estimated to be between £80 million and £130 million, much of which built up before 2017. GKN is a global business, headquartered in the U.K., with all the complexities that Brexit will bring Stevens has her work cut out for her.

About the Author:

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY), Women's World Car of the Year (WWCOTY), and the Concept Car of the Year.

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