William Clay Ford, Jr. has made a positive and lasting impact on the Detroit Lions since assuming his post of vice chairman in February 1995. He remains focused not only on creating a winner in the present, but on ensuring success well into the 21st century—both on and off the field.
Ford shares his father’s commitment and devotion to the Lions and has a burning passion to win. He wants nothing less than for the Lions to become a premier franchise in the National Football League, and knows that elite status includes delivering a championship to Lions fans.
William Clay Ford, Jr. has made a positive and lasting impact on the Detroit Lions since assuming the post of vice chairman in February 1995. He remains focused not only on creating a winner in the present, but on ensuring the team’s success well into the 21st century – both on and off the field.
In addition to his important contributions to the Lions over the years, Ford’s value to the entire National Football League was recognized in August 2013 when he was appointed to the NFL Broadcast Committee, perhaps the league’s most important and prestigious business committee due to its negotiation of national media contracts.
Ford shares in his family’s longtime commitment to the Lions and a burning passion to win. That passion dates all the way back to 1934 when his father, William Clay Ford, attended the first Lions’ game ever played in Detroit as a child. Mr. Ford would later purchase the team as sole owner in 1963. Now, Ford Jr.’s mother, Martha Firestone Ford, has assumed ownership of the team with great pride following Mr. Ford’s passing on March 9, 2014.
Like his entire family, Ford wants nothing less than for the Lions to become a premier franchise in the NFL, and he knows that means delivering a championship to the fans.
To see Ford’s influence on the organization and on the sport, one has to look no further than Ford Field in downtown Detroit and the team’s headquarters and practice facility in Allen Park. Both are considered among the best facilities in all of sports, and were shaped by Ford’s resolve for the Lions to be a leader in the NFL.
Ford’s dedication and commitment to the fans was never more evident than when he spearheaded the team’s stadium negotiations that led to the 1996 decision to build Ford Field. Due largely to his determination and perseverance, the Lions struck a deal with the city of Detroit and Wayne County that established the foundation for the team to return to downtown Detroit in 2002.
Along with moving the Lions to downtown Detroit, Ford has provided a world-class practice facility to complement the team’s stadium. The $36 million team headquarters in Allen Park, which opened in April 2002, provides the ideal training center for NFL players and coaches.
Ford also played a vital role in Detroit’s bid for Super Bowl XL. Through his leadership, the Ford family, the Detroit Lions and Ford Motor Company were integral in Detroit’s hosting of the premier event of the NFL in February 2006. Super Bowl XL exceeded expectations, generating an overall $260 million economic impact, including $100 million in downtown improvements, $10 million in emerging business – the most in Super Bowl history – and $6 million in the NFL/Boys & Girls Club Youth Education Town, the largest in the country.
Detroit earned extraordinary reviews from the international community for its hosting of Super Bowl XL. The event represents perhaps the finest moment in Ford’s vision to build a stadium in downtown Detroit.
In other past roles within the NFL structure, Ford also has served on the NFL Finance Committee and NFL Properties Committee.
FAN AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Ford values optimum fan engagement and makes that a priority for the Lions and Ford Field. He believes this approach best greatly benefits the community and its economic growth. He firmly believes nothing impacts the organization more than the game-day stadium experience realized by Lions fans at every home game.
In his nearly 20 years as vice chairman, Ford has pushed the Lions to take major steps on several fronts. He strongly supports active community outreach programs, which have been recognized as the best of any team in all of professional sports. Several initiatives, such as Detroit Lions Charities, have served Detroit and the state of Michigan.
In September 2012, the Lions began a new community initiative – Living for the City – that has reshaped the club’s aim to improve the lives of Detroiters. This transformational approach focuses on the belief that healthy families are the backbone of a healthy community, and the organization has targeted partnerships – with an emphasis on health, wellness and development – that have the most potential to support Detroit’s resurgence.
Community involvement goes beyond the team’s community outreach and charitable contributions, as Ford also emphasizes the importance of growing the game of football and the development of youth.
The Detroit Lions Youth Football program is one of the most extensive youth sports programs operated by a professional sports team. From numerous youth camps held statewide to coaching clinics, the goal of the program is to positively impact children’s lives both on and off the field through teamwork, discipline and hard work – life lessons derived from the game of football. This program includes teaching proper safety practices for players and assists in development of youth coaches. Through Detroit Lions Charities, he helped develop the Detroit Police Athletic League youth football program into one of the largest in the country.
Under Ford’s direction, the Detroit Lions has launched one of the most aggressive business operations in all of sports, with the benefits generated from both NFL games and other events hosted at Ford Field ultimately directed toward providing the team with the resources it needs to be successful.
Over the years, Ford’s leadership has resulted in several key business initiatives that enhance service provided to fans. Allowing fans greater opportunities to attend Lions’ games has always been a priority for the Ford family, and that includes offering several ticket options enabling more people to experience the Lions and the NFL in person. The organization also has introduced a new digital ticketing system, the first of its kind in the NFL, and has improved its merchandise operations.
Another area in which Ford emphasizes progressive growth includes digital and social media, which allows the team to connect with and communicate directly with its fans. Shortly after Ford assumed his role with the club, the Lions became one of the first professional sports teams to launch its own website, Detroitlions.com. Today, the team reaches and engages with millions of fans through multiple digital platforms and social media outlets.
FORD FIELD ENTERTAINMENT IMPACT
Besides football, Ford Field has hosted some of the largest sports and entertainment events in the nation, including two of the most important events in the history of college athletics.
In March 2008, the Midwest Regional Finals in Detroit broke NCAA regional and preliminary round attendance records, with more than 57,000 people attending each session at Ford Field. Then, in March 2009, Ford Field hosted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four, a first for downtown Detroit. The event shattered tournament attendance records, netted metro Detroit a $30 million to $50 million economic boost, and provided a number of community outreach initiatives that have had a lasting impact on the city. One of those legacy outreach programs established early learning and literacy centers throughout the community.
In April 2010, the focus was again on Ford Field as it hosted the NCAA Men’s Hockey Frozen Four, becoming the first venue in NCAA history to host the Final Four and Frozen Four in back-to-back years. The event generated record crowds and established a new indoor hockey world attendance record.
This year, Ford Field will play host to a college bowl game, owned and operated by the Lions and in partnership with the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast conferences.
Since its opening in 2002, Ford Field has hosted some of the biggest concert events and is one of the finest large-scale stadium concert venues in the United States.
OFF THE FIELD
Though football remains a passion for Ford and the entire Ford family, his top priority continues to be in serving as Ford Motor Company executive chairman. His role is a professional and personal commitment, leading the company founded by his great-grandfather, American automotive pioneer Henry Ford. A member of the board of directors since 1988, Ford assumed the role of chairman of the board on Jan. 1, 1999. He also served as chief executive officer from October 2001 through September 2006. Additionally, he serves as chairman of the board’s finance committee and is a member of the sustainability committee.
Among his many outside leadership roles, Ford serves on the Board of Trustees of The Henry Ford and Henry Ford Health System. He is also chairman of Detroit Economic Club and the New Michigan Initiative Committee of Business Leaders for Michigan. Ford is a member of the board of directors of eBay and a founding partner of Fontinalis Partners, LLC, a Michigan-based investment firm that acts as a strategic operating partner to transportation infrastructure technology companies around the world.
Born in Detroit in 1957, Ford is an avid fly-fisherman and car enthusiast. He enjoys playing tennis and is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. He also plays in pond hockey tournaments, and his team has claimed the USA Hockey Pond Hockey National Championship in past years.
Ford is a member of the Irish America Hall of Fame. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University and a Master of Science in management as an Alfred P. Sloan fellow from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), an honorary Doctor of Environmental Sciences and Engineering degree from Koc University, an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Michigan and an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Bradley University.
The appointment was made public Thursday, as the Lions prepared to play their second preseason game against the Browns
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