William Clay Ford Sr., the primary shareholder of Ford Motor Company and majority owner of the Detroit Lions 50 years running, died Sunday, a little less than a week before his 89th birthday.
William Clay Ford died of pneumonia, according to the Ford Motor Company
— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) March 9, 2014
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 purchased a controlling interest in the Lions in November 1963, officially closing the sale on Jan. 10, 1964. Only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, 95, has owned an NFL team longer than Ford. Wilson has been with Buffalo since its inception in 1959.
Ford originally paid $4.5 million for the Lions franchise, which is now valued at approximately $900 million, according to Forbes.
The Lions won exactly one playoff game during Ford’s time with the team, a 1991 divisional-round triumph against the Dallas Cowboys. Otherwise, Detroit has become arguably more synonymous with losing than any other NFL city.