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Robert Rubin has smoothly navigated Goldman Sachs, the White House, the US Treasury and Citigroup. Now he can add struggling Ford to the list. He has quit his board seat saying he wants to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest with his senior job at Citigroup. He has done the right thing.
Ford is considering drastic surgery. Off-loading Jaguar and other luxury marques is one option. Selling a stake in the carmaker’s finance arm is another. Rumours even suggest the Ford family might try taking the company private. Citigroup is well-placed to score a big advisory or financing fee somewhere. In today’s governance world, it would have been questionable for Mr Rubin to hang around.
True, he did not quit last year when Citigroup helped Ford sell Hertz to private equity buyers for $15bn. But the company is considering all options and the potential for conflicts is arguably larger. The decision may have been made easier by the wish to avoid another potential conflict issue. His son is a partner alongside former Ford chief executive Jac Nasser at the JPMorgan private equity unit interested in buying some of the luxury brands, albeit not involved in the talks.
And what if Ford does no deals that might have caused a conflict? That would probably mean continuing in its current troubled state. At least Mr Rubin will not have to be around to deal with that.