Further financial difficulties at Mazda during the 1990s (partly caused by losses related to the 1997 Asian financial crisis) caused Ford to increase its stake to a 33. 4-percent controlling interest in May 1996. In June 1996, Henry Wallace was appointed President, and he set about restructuring Mazda and setting it on a new strategic direction. He laid out a new direction for the brand including the design of the present Mazda marque; he laid out a new product plan to achieve synergies with Ford, and he launched Mazda's digital innovation program to speed up the development of new products. At the same time, he started taking control of overseas distributors, rationalized dealerships and manufacturing facilities, and driving much needed efficiencies and cost reductions in Mazda's operations. Much of his early work put Mazda back into profitability and laid the foundations for future success. Wallace was succeeded by James Miller in November 1997, followed in December 1999 by Ford executive Mark Fields, who has been credited with expanding Mazda's new product lineup and leading the turnaround during the early 2000s. Ford's increased influence during the 1990s allowed Mazda to claim another distinction in history, having maintained the first foreign-born head of a Japanese car company, Henry Wallace.