Click photo to enlarge

DEARBORN, Mich. -- Alan Mulally is staying at Ford.

The CEO, who was rumored to be in the running to become Microsoft’s next leader, told The Associated Press Tuesday that he won’t leave the Dearborn, Mich., automaker before the end of 2014.

"I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally said in an interview.

When asked if this should end investor concern about his departure, Mulally said, "You don’t have to worry about me leaving."

Mulally said he will stick with his plan to stay at Ford through at least the end of 2014. Ford announced that plan in November 2012. At the same time it promoted Mark Fields to chief operating officer, making Fields the likely successor to Mulally.

Over the last few months, there have been numerous reports that Mulally was on the short list of candidates to replace Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer. Microsoft announced in August that Ballmer plans to step down as CEO.

Mulally wouldn’t say if he had talked to Microsoft about becoming CEO. But he said the speculation was a distraction for Ford.

Mulally, 68, was trained as an aeronautical engineer. He spent 36 years at Boeing Co. -- and was president of the company’s commercial airplane division -- before Ford Chairman Bill Ford lured him to the struggling automaker in 2006. He is widely credited with returning the company to profitability and changing the culture, ending widespread executive infighting.

During his tenure, Ford has earned $32.9 billion in pretax profit and its shares have more than doubled.

Microsoft wouldn’t say Tuesday whether Mulally’s announcement was a surprise.

"Out of respect for the process and the potential candidates, we don’t comment on individual names," a Microsoft spokesman told the AP.

Ford shares rose 20 cents to $15.58 in after-hours trading. Microsoft shares fell 37 cents to $36.04.