"The family is willing to look at anything," the source told the paper. "A lot of different scenarios are being gamed out."
In an e-mail, a spokesperson for the automaker characterized the news as "speculation" and refused to comment on it.
Ford shares closed Wednesday at $7.76, giving it a market capitalization of $14 billion. Shares were up 0.5 percent in Frankfurt trading on the report.
The Ford family owns about 5 percent of Ford's outstanding shares, although it controls about 40 percent of its voting shares through a separate stock issue. Bill Ford, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, is chairman and CEO of the company.
"The biggest benefit to taking it private is just not having to answer to all the external stakeholders they have to answer to today," Kevin Reale, an analyst with AMR Research, told the paper.
Wall Street has seen a pickup this year in companies buying up all their shares through leveraged buyouts (LBO) in order to take them private. The largest is a $21 billion deal to buy hospital operator HCA (Charts), by a group that includes private equity firms as well as the company's founding family and members of management.
Changes ahead at Ford
Whether Ford is taken private, it's clear that major changes are coming to the nation's embattled No. 2 automaker.
The company announced Aug. 2 that it had hired Kenneth Leet, an 18-year veteran of Goldman Sachs, as a strategic adviser to Bill Ford to explore "a broad range of strategic alternatives" for the automaker.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Bill Ford had called Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of both Renault and Nissan, to say that if those companies' talks about an alliance with General Motors did not produce a deal, Ford would be interested in discussing joining the alliance between the European and Japanese automakers. The companies have not commented on that report.
The company has lost $1.4 billion through the first two quarters of this year, and analysts are forecasting that losses will continue into 2007.
The company has seen U.S. sales fall 9.8 percent for the first seven months of this year to 1.7 million vehicles. While sales of its car models are up 5.7 percent for the year, light trucks, such as SUVs, pickups and minivans, which are far more profitable for the company, are off 17.1 percent.
In July, for the first time in its history, it fell to No. 3 in U.S. sales behind Toyota Motor Corp., capturing only 15 percent of new vehicle sales.
On Aug. 18, it announced it was slashing North American production plans 21 percent in the fourth quarter, primarily in its light truck models, as 10 plants will stay shuttered for extended periods of time. It's the biggest cut in production at the automaker since 1982.
In January the company announced plans to close 14 plants by 2012, but it has said it will speed up those turnaround plans and announce changes in September.
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