Ford Motor Co. (F) is considering taking the company private, USA Today newspaper reported Thursday, citing a "source with direct knowledge of the discussions."

That would give the automaker time to restructure operations outside the glare of critics, the article on the paper's Web site said.

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"The family is willing to look at anything," USA Today quoted the source as saying. Top executives have said they are looking at every option available to turn Ford around, including selling off brands such as Jaguar, entering into partnerships with other automakers, slashing its work force and closing more plants, the article said.

A Ford spokesman said: "This is speculation and we don't comment on speculation."

Earlier in August, Ford said it hired mergers and acquisitions expert Kenneth Leet as an adviser to Chief Executive Bill Ford Jr. to explore strategic alternatives for the automaker. The Ford family owns about 5 percent of Ford's shares and controls about 40 percent of the voting power through a separate class of stock.

Ford, which is battling shrinking U.S. market share and rising costs, also recently announced plans to cut fourth-quarter production as it accelerates a turnaround plan. The company is responding to weakening U.S. demand for fuel-hungry trucks and SUVs amid high gasoline prices.

Shares of Ford rose 1.5 percent to $7.88 in late-morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Ford's 7.45 percent note due in 2031 rose to 76.75 cents on the dollar, from 76.25 cents, according to MarketAxess. Ford's 7 percent note due 2013 rose slightly to 90.938 cents on the dollar, from 90.5 cents, according to MarketAxess.

"It looks as if financially it would be something they could do," Margaret Patel, senior vice president at Pioneer Investments said of the USA Today article. "What they would accomplish by becoming a private company as it relates to cars I'm not really sure. Except for being out of the public eye, I don't know that there would be material benefits," Patel said.

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