Lewis Booth, Ford Motor Co.'s chief financial officer, plans toretire in the first half of this year, clearing the way for ChiefExecutive Officer Alan Mulally to step up efforts to groom the nextCEO, according to two people familiar with the plan.

Mulally, 66, will probably retire around the end of 2013 andBooth's departure gives him the opportunity to name a new No. 2executive who could be trained as the next CEO, most likely MarkFields, said one of the people, who asked not to be identifieddisclosing private plans. Fields, 50, runs operations in NorthAmerica and South America. Booth, 63, has been Mulally's de factosecond in command, the only other executive with a global view ofworldwide operations, said the people.

Asked yesterday at the Detroit auto show if he planned to retirein the first half of this year, Booth declined to comment. WhenMulally was asked later if he felt his job was done turning Fordaround, the CEO responded: “I'm just getting started.”

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