William Clay Ford Sr, the owner of the Detroit Lions, has been found dead, aged 88. Ford Sr was the last living grandson of Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford motor company. He is survived by a son and three daughters. Ford died of pneumonia in his sleep.
Ford was acknowledged for his love of football in a statement given by Lions President Tom Lewand. Lewand went on to pay tribute to Ford’s love of his family and Detroit, saying Ford’s death would be mourned with great sadness.
Ford, said to have been a quiet man in the world of football team owners, was born March 14 1925. He served in the navy in The Second World War and then married Martha Firestone, a member of the tire producing family, in 1947. He then graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Science in Economics before going on to work for the Ford Motor Company where he worked as an employee and served on its board for over half of its 100 year history. At Ford, Ford Sr. famously updated his Grandfather’s design, the Continental. It was for his contributions to the company’s car designs that Ford, the largest individual shareholder in the firm, would be best remembered, it was said in a Ford released statement today.
The news that William Clay Ford Sr has been found dead will be sad for the football world, the Lions and the Detroit community in particular. The relationship between Ford, the Lions and the city of Detroit was long, and while it did not give life to the successes Ford hoped for, it nevertheless had its moments. When Ford bought the business in 1963, his eye for business served him as well then as it did in his career with his Grandfather’s company. Ford paid $4.5 million for the team, recently valued by Forbes as being worth approximately $900 million. Ford did other things for the club besides increasing its worth. He also moved it out from the city of Detroit’s Tiger Stadium and over to the Pontiac Silverdrome in 1976 and then back into downtown Detroit to Ford Field, a stadium he had especially built for the team.
Ford’s wealth made him a name in the Business world. Forbes magazines had him listed as the United State’s 371st richest person in 2013 with a net worth of $1.35 billion. But even his fortune was not able to bring him what he most dearly wanted in his tenure as the Lions’ owner: a Superbowl title. That desire, club president Lewden said his statement today, was matched by Ford’s leadership, kindness, integrity, humility, good humor. In the 50 years Ford owned the club, the Lions won one playoff game in 1991 and never reached the Super bowl final, one of the few National Football League (NFL) teams to hold that unfortunate distinction.
Today the NFL world and the Detroit community will grieve the news that William Clay Ford Sr has been found dead. His son, William Clay Ford Jr., who had been doing much of the public speaking on behalf of his father in recent years, is expected to take over the team. That news may help the Lions’ chances of fulfilling Ford Sr.’s wishes. Ford Jr. is said to be more forthright than his father, publicly criticizing then team President Matt Millen in 2008, which many people say led to Millen’s eventual ousting.
Commentary by Christian Deverille