Lions owner Martha Ford steps down

Detroit Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford, right, with daughter Sheila Ford Hamp. Photo courtesy Detroit Lions/Twitter.

Detroit’s Ford family has passed the torch of the city’s NFL team to the next generation.

The Detroit Lions announced Tuesday morning that principal owner and chairperson Martha Firestone Ford, 94, will be stepping away from those duties and passing them on to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp.

“It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League,” said Ford in a statement posted on the Lions’ official website. “I am gratified that this family tradition, which my husband and I began almost six decades ago, will continue under Sheila’s guiding hand. It is clear to me that Sheila will provide superb leadership and is fully committed to competitive excellence and community involvement.”

Sheila Hamp had been involved for several years in the team’s operations and had been active in NFL initiatives in preparation for the role change.

“My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago,” said Hamp. “She has been a tireless leader to our family, our team and our community. Her smart decisions have given me a solid foundation to take the team forward. On behalf of the family and the team, I want to thank her for her countless contributions. I look forward to leading the Lions to excellence on and off the field.”

The Ford family has owned at least a minority stake in the Lions since 1961. William Clay Ford Sr., the grandson of Henry Ford, purchased the team in 1963 for $4.5 million, or $37.7 million in 2020 funds. When he died in 2014, his widow got control of the Lions.

The Fords’ four children, including Sheila Hamp and Ford Motor Company chairman Bill Ford Jr., each have shares of the team.

In 2019, the Lions’ net worth was $1.95 billion, according to Forbes.

While the Lions have been owned by a family known in Detroit for its wealth and influence, the team’s fortunes have not been great under Ford leadership. The Lions last won an NFL title in 1957, and since 1963, the Lions have won only one playoff game and reached the NFC title game once. The team has also had 18 head coaches during the Ford’s ownership.