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Why Alan Mulally Will Stay at Ford

DETROIT ( TheStreet) -- The reporting on the possible departure of Ford (F - Get Report) CEO Alan Mulally for Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) fascinates me because it is so clearly being reported from two different sides.

The Ford side has seemed nearly certain that Mulally will stay, even if stories on Friday in The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News opened the door a bit. "Those who know Mulally say there are many reasons why the move makes sense for a man who is already credited with saving two iconic American companies," the News reported, while the Free Press talked about the financial implications of Mulally 's potential departure.

However, Ford is denying Mulally will leave, as it has consistently. Three weeks ago, the last time Mulally-to-Microsoft chatter crested, Ford spokesman Jay Cooney said: "There is no change from what we announced in November -- Alan Mulally plans to continue to serve as Ford's president and CEO through at least 2014." Cooney told me the same thing on Saturday. Mulally has consistently denied that he will leave. Also on Friday, The Detroit News talked with Ford President Mark Fields and then reported that "the apparent successor to Mulally said Friday that there are no immediate plans for him to take over in Dearborn."

I view the denials as firm. The auto industry is covered by a lot of good reporters, all of them in Detroit, and I don't think they miss much.

Yet a good reporter on the tech side sees it differently. Kara Swisher, a writer for AllThings D, a Web site that covers technology, stirred all this up on Thursday, writing that Mulally "has vaulted to the forefront of the candidates to become the new CEO of Microsoft." She noted: "Sources said Mulally has not entered formal contract negotiations with Microsoft, but that discussions with him about the job have been serious."

It seems clear from the story that people at Microsoft believe Mulally is coming there. Microsoft people, I assume, are much like the rest of us: They hear what they want to hear. They are, however, billions of dollars wealthier than the rest of us, so I imagine they do not generally expect that someone might conceivably tell them no. When you read that Mulally still has his house in Seattle and has friendships with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, you can only imagine the level of the temptation he faces. He fixed Boeing (BA - Get Report), he fixed Ford, and now he can fix something else and not have to commute so far.
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