Martha Ford takes over Lions ownership

Posted Mar 10, 2014

Bill Ford, who has been the team's vice chairman since 1995, will remain in that role

As expected, the Detroit Lions are staying in the Ford family.

Following the passing of owner and chairman William Clay Ford, 88, on Sunday, the controlling interest in the organization has passed to his widow, Martha Ford.

Ford Family(R-L): Bill Ford, Martha Ford, Sheila Ford Hamp and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis. Not pictured Martha Ford Morse. (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Mrs. Ford has been actively involved with the team over the years.

“Pursuant to long-established succession plans, Mr. Ford’s controlling interest in the Lions passes to Mrs. Martha Ford,” the team released in a statement. “She and her four children will continue to be involved in the ownership of the franchise, as they have during Mr. Ford’s tenure.”

Mrs. Ford is the granddaughter of Harvey Firestone. She and William Clay Ford married in 1947.

Mrs. Ford’s son, Bill Ford, the team’s vice chairman since 1995, will remain in that role, and daughters Martha, Sheila and Elizabeth will also be involved with the team.

The day-to-day operations of the franchise will continue to be run by team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.

The NFL has worked with families over the years to keep the controlling interest of clubs within the family when the majority owner has passed.

The NFL made sure Dan Rooney kept controlling interest in the Steelers when team founder Art Rooney died.

Virginia McCaskey and her family have had controlling interest in the Bears since George Halas died in 1983.

And just recently, when Tennessee owner Bud Adams passed away last year, his two daughters and the family of his deceased son each got a third of the team.

Bill Ford has taken on a more public role with the team in recent years and that’s expected to continue. He sat in on an interview with Jim Caldwell during the team’s coaching search and he’s part on the influential NFL broadcast committee that negotiates the league’s lucrative television contracts.