50 Years Ago This Month, William Clay Ford Sr. Bought The Detroit Lions

On November 22, 1963, Mr. William Clay Ford Sr., the youngest child of Edsel Bryant Ford and last surviving grandchild of Ford Motor Company Founder Henry Ford, purchased a controlling interest in the Detroit Lions of the National Football League. Ford Sr. bought the interest from previous owners, Edwin Anderson and Lyle Fife for $4.5 million. That was 50 years ago this month. So, what does the future hold for a Lions franchise after five decades of ownership by Mr. Ford? In a sense, more years of family ownership.

“The family’s totally behind it,” said Tom Lesnau, Lions’ former vice president of finance and chief financial officer to the Detroit Free Press. “It would be shocking to think that the family would ever consider getting rid of it.

According to Forbes, the Lions are now valued at $900 million.

“I think it’s as much of a fixture as almost another member of the family. The kids have grown up in it, and all the grandkids now attend games and are on the sidelines and everything. I think it’s probably as much of the culture of that individual family as Ford Motor Co. is to them.”

The Lions haven’t discussed a succession plan for who will take over when Ford Sr., 88, cedes control, most likely because the franchise will stay in the Ford family. To note, Mr. Ford Sr. and his wife Martha have four children. William “Bill” Clay Ford Jr., who serves as the executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, is also the Vice Chairman of the Lions. He has held the position since 1995.

Detroit Lions - William Clay Ford Jr

To note, Bill was appointed to the NFL’s influential nine-member broadcast committee in 2013. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft serves as the groups’s chair, and the committee is responsible for negotiating the league’s media rights deals. Two years ago, Bill and his father were involved in the NFL lockout, advising NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on labor issues.

The Motrolix Take

Given Ford Jr.’s involvement with the NFL, it would be a safe bet to say that it will be him who takes over the Lions from Ford Sr. But that’s just our gut talkin’.

Motrolix Founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.

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