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New Ford CEO Jim Hackett lured Harbaugh to University of Michigan

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Posted at 11:00 AM, May 22, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 12:47:49-04

Jim Hackett, the man replacing Mark Fields as Ford CEO, has a history with the University of Michigan and star football coach Jim Harbaugh.

Hackett served as the interim athletic director at the University of Michigan from 2014 to 2016. In that role, he lured Harbaugh to U-M. 

Related: Mark Fields out, Jim Hackett in as new CEO of Ford Motor Company

As the Detroit Free Press reported back in 2015, Hackett played on relationships and not the job itself when courting Harbaugh for the position after the firing of Brady Hoke. 

"(Jim) was willing to consider Michigan if he could get comfortable that Brady had been taken care of and wanted to make sure I didn't do something rash," Hackett told the Detroit Free Press. "We started to talk about the program in ways. Now, as I'm experiencing what he's doing, I'm really glad we started there."

And when Hackett made the decision to step down as interim, Harbaugh didn't want to see it happen.

"That relationship has been A++. I still want to talk him into staying," Harbaugh told MLive.com in December of 2015. "Maybe I'll keep giving that a shot. That's the way I feel about it. It's been outstanding working with Jim."

Hackett is now entering the role as Ford CEO as the company struggles to keep its traditional auto-manufacturing business running smoothly while remaking itself as a nimble, high-tech provider of new mobility services.

Hackett joined Ford's board in 2013 and has led Ford's mobility unit since March of last year.

Hackett is also the former CEO of Steelcase Inc., one of the world's largest office furniture companies. He is credited with transforming that company, in part by predicting the shift away from cubicles and into open office plans. But he first had to cut thousands of jobs and moved furniture production from the U.S. to Mexico to stem massive losses at the company.

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in an interview that Hackett is the right person to lead Ford as it expands into new business areas, like making self-driving shuttles, because he's a "visionary" who knows how to remake a business. Car companies are facing increasing competition from Google, Uber and others as they try to plot their next moves.

"These are really unparalleled times, and it really requires transformational leadership during these times," Bill Ford said.