Hertz Names Former Ford CEO as Interim Chief

Hertz Global Holdings Inc. HTZZ 9.87% tapped former Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields as its interim chief executive and moved Chief Executive Paul Stone to the role of president and chief operating officer.

The leadership change comes as the Estero, Fla.-based company resets after emerging from bankruptcy under new ownership and demand for rental cars has snapped back after bookings were crushed in the early days of the pandemic.

The Wall Street Journal in September reported that the company was in talks to name a new CEO. A Hertz spokeswoman said the search continues for a permanent chief executive.

Mr. Fields has been a Hertz board member since June and is also a senior adviser at TPG Capital LP. He is a veteran of the auto industry, having risen through the leadership ranks at Ford to become the car company’s CEO in 2014. He left Ford three years later.

Shares of Hertz were up nearly 10% at Tuesday’s close.

“Mark’s extensive background in auto and technology will be critical as we remake Hertz for the future,” said Greg O’Hara, Hertz’s chairman and founder of Certares Management LLC. Hertz is now controlled by an investor group led by Certares and Knighthead Capital Management LLC.

Mr. Stone had run Hertz since May 2020, taking the top position days before the company filed for bankruptcy protection. Mr. Stone will remain at the rental-car company as president and chief operating officer.

The executive changes come as Hertz’s new owners seek to overhaul the century-old company, implementing new software to improve inventory management and better forecast customer demand. There is also a move to transition the fleet to include more electric vehicles.

The rental-car industry has faced several challenges since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Initially, a sharp drop-off in travel and falling used car values pummeled earnings. Companies like Hertz and rival Avis Budget Group tried to cut costs by downsizing their fleets, implementing job cuts and curtailing executive pay.

Hertz filed for bankruptcy in May of 2020, as the heavily indebted firm suffered from a collapse in reservations.

Within the past year, business has bounced back as travel restrictions were lifted and more Americans got Covid-19 vaccines. At the same time, Hertz and other rental-car firms are struggling to keep up with the surge in bookings, lacking vehicles to provide customers as the broader car-business confronts a shortage of new vehicles. The shortfall is pushing up rental-car prices and leaving renters with fewer options.

Mr. Fields spent his entire career at Ford, starting in a marketing role and rotating through several overseas posts, including executive positions in Asia and Europe. He was groomed as the successor to former CEO Alan Mulally, before taking over the top position in 2014.

During his time as CEO, Mr. Fields oversaw a period of record profit and growth overseas and worked to position Ford for success in the transition to electric vehicles and other advanced technologies. But Ford’s stock price continued to slump at the time.

He was succeeded by then-Ford director Jim Hackett, who served three years before retiring a year ago, handing over the job to current chief executive Jim Farley.

Since leaving Ford, Mr. Fields has served as a senior adviser to private-equity firm TPG and joined the boards of Qualcomm Inc. and cybersecurity firm Tanium.

This summer was harder than ever to rent a car in the U.S., especially at popular vacation destinations. To learn what’s behind the spike in rental car prices, WSJ spoke with an industry analyst and WSJ’s Nora Naughton. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Write to Nora Naughton at Nora.Naughton@wsj.com and Dave Sebastian at dave.sebastian@wsj.com

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Appeared in the October 6, 2021, print edition as ‘Hertz Names Former CEO Of Ford as Its Interim Chief.’