Ford shuffles top execs in Europe and South America, adds CFO to new mobility unit; Humana-Aetna said ready to shed 350,000 members to win DOJ antitrust clearance

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 2:12 p.m.

Neil Schloss

FORD today shifted senior leadership in Europe and South America, and promoted an executive to the nascent Ford Smart Mobility LLC subsidiary. The changes come as the European market has been further challenged by Britain’s decision this month to leave the E.U., at a time when the economy is already threatened by a possible recession.

Neil Schloss, 57, was named CFO at the mobility unit, in addition to his current position as Ford vice president and treasurer.

Barb Samardzich

The leadership changes started with the retirement of one of the automaker’s more senior female executives, Barb Samardzich, 57, vice president and COO of Ford of Europe, effective Oct. 1. The company said her retirement is voluntary.

Her retirement spurred a cascade of other changes:

Samardzich, during her 26-year Ford career, was responsible for the design, engineering and development of several key Ford and Lincoln vehicles, including the 2005 model Mustang.

Ford announced the mobility subsidiary in March amid growing competition with other automakers and Silicon Valley in development of driverless cars and other technology innovations that are challenging Detroit’s primacy in the auto world. Underscoring its importance, Ford said Jim Hackett, former Steelcase vice chairman and CEO, was leaving the company’s board of directors to chair the new subsidiary.

Separately today, Ford also highlighted the towing capacity of its 2017 F-Series Super Duty trucks, starting with high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy and high-strength steel that helps cut weight by up to 350 pounds.

The F-450 Super Duty SuperCrew 4×4 now features a maximum gooseneck tow rating of 32,500 lbs., 1,290 lbs. more than its nearest competitor, a regular cab two-door pickup. Maximum fifth-wheel towing has been boosted to 27,500 lbs., 2,500 lbs. better than the nearest competitor (press release). In Louisville, the Kentucky Truck Plant employs about 5,100 workers, producing F-250 and F-550 Super Duty pickups, plus Expeditions, and Lincoln Navigators.

HUMANA and proposed acquirer Aetna have reportedly offered to divest regional plans covering roughly 350,000 members, and have received bids from smaller Medicare rivals WellCare Health and Centene, as the two insurance giants scramble to win Department of Justice approval for their $37 billion tie-up.

Analysts say the DOJ’s antitrust unit may not see the sales alone as enough to maintain competition. “The question is not can you find a buyer for the plans,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst Steven Harper, “but will the government approve the buyer?” (CNBC).

The 350,000 members Humana and Aetna are reportedly willing to shed are a tiny fraction of the 60 million members the two would have if their deal went through. But its prospects grew more uncertain when word leaked July 7 that the DOJ had called in executives at both companies to explain why it wouldn’t be anticompetitive.

Humana, started in Louisville in 1961, has more than 21.3 million members and does business in all 50 states. It has approximately 50,000 employees, including about 12,500 in Louisville. Last year’s revenues were $54 billion.

UPS said it announce second-quarter results July 29 at about 7:45 a.m. ET, followed by a conference call at 8:30 with CEO David Abney, CFO Richard Peretz and Wall Street analysts. The call will be open to the public on a listen-only basis, via a live webcast (press release).

Fresh ThymeIn other news, a Fresh Thyme Farmers Market — the city’s second — will be an anchor tenant in the planned Bardstown Pavilion commercial center in Fern Creek, a $35 million-$40 million project under review by metro planners (Courier-Journal). Fresh Thyme opened its first store in April on Shelbyville Road in St. Matthews in a former Liquor Barn store. The Fern Creek outlet would be one of 60 stores the Chicago-based chain plans by 2019.

In NuLu, construction on the proposed $37 million AC Hotel at the corner of Shelby and Market streets could start in October or November of this year (Insider Louisville).

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