Lions owner William Clay Ford Sr. dies at 88

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William Clay Ford Sr., the longtime owner of the Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 88.

“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 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.”

Ford purchased the Lions in 1963 and oversaw their move out of the city from Tiger Stadium to the Pontiac Silverdome in 1975, and then oversaw their move back into downtown Detroit with the opening of Ford Field in 2002. Ford was the youngest son of Edsel Ford and the last surviving grandchild of Henry Ford, and he was the largest individual shareholder in Ford Motor Company.

Control of the Lions will presumably go to his son, William Clay Ford Jr., who has become increasingly active in the team in recent years. There is no reason to believe Bill Ford would make any immediate changes, but he developed a reputation for being more proactive than his father when his public criticism precipitated the ouster of team President Matt Millen in 2008.

Born March 14, 1925, William Clay Ford Sr. served in the Navy in World War II and married Martha Firestone of the family that owned the Firestone tire company in 1947. In addition to Bill Jr., William and Martha had three daughters.

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