William Clay Ford Sr., the owner of the Detroit Lions, has died at the age of 88.
Ford was the last surviving grandson of Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Co., and has owned the Lions since November 1963.
“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 1963 for the Lions franchise, which is now valued at approximately $900 million, according to Forbes.
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, Bill Ford, in recent years.
Ford has one of the few NFL franchises that has yet to play in the Super Bowl.
He also served as an employee and board member of Ford Motor Co. for more than half of its 100-year history. The company says in a statement that he was instrumental in setting the design direction for the company’s vehicles.
ESPN’s Darren Rovell and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Previously covered University of Michigan for ESPN.com and AnnArbor.com
Also covered Notre Dame for Fort Wayne Journal Gazette