Detroit Lions Owner Dies, William Clay Ford Sr., the owner of the Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 88. Ford Motor Co. said in a statement Sunday that Ford died of pneumonia at his home. He was the last surviving grandson of automotive pioneer Henry Ford and owned the Lions since 1964.
“It is with profound sadness that we mourn the loss of Mr. Ford and extend our deepest sympathies to Mrs. Ford and to the entire Ford family,” Lions team president Tom Lewand said in a statement. “No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions.
“Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit. His leadership, integrity, kindness, humility and good humor were matched only by his desire to bring a Super Bowl championship to the Lions and to our community.”
Ford originally paid $4.5 million in November 1963 for the Lions franchise, which is now valued at approximately $900 million, according to Forbes. He officially assumed ownership of the team in January 1964.
In Ford’s 50-year tenure as the Lions’ owner, the team has won one playoff game — in 1991 — and has never reached a Super Bowl. Ford was one of the quieter owners in the NFL, rarely speaking to the media. Much of the public speaking about the team had been done by his son, William Clay Ford Jr., in recent years.
Ford has one of the few NFL franchises that has yet to play in the Super Bowl. Under his ownership, the Lions had 14 winning seasons and 10 playoff appearances.
Away from football, Ford worked for Ford Motor Co. for 57 years and was the chairman of the company’s design committee from 1957 until 1989. He was instrumental in the design decisions of many of Ford Motor’s cars in that span.
In 1978, he was named the chairman of the executive committee of Ford.