A short time after the Lions news was revealed, Goodell released a statement in which he praised now-former Lions owner Martha Ford for her leadership of the team. Perhaps even more revealing were his comments on Sheila Ford Hamp, the team’s new principal owner.
As Goodell said, Hamp has become a familiar face in league circles recently, which might only point to the fact that this transition has been in the works for some time on the Lions side of things. Goodell is excited to work with Hamp moving forward while also realizing the contributions her mother made for years as team owner.
Lions Revealed Ownership Shakeup
Tuesday morning, the team revealed that principal owner Martha Ford would be stepping down, while her daughter Sheila Ford Hamp would take over ownership of the team.
Both women released statements that were posted to DetroitLions.com on the matter. First, Martha Ford:
“It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League. 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.”
Additionally, Sheila Ford Hamp commented on taking the reigns and credited her mother’s leadership of the team:
“My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago. 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.”
This move, while surprising in timing is not stunning in execution. It seemed as if the team would be passed down eventually, and the Ford family never looked primed to sell their family business. Late last year, Ford Hamp spoke at length when the team retained general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia, meaning it seemed she was entering the picture at that point as a more major player in the organization.
Martha Ford’s Ownership of Lions
Ever since her husband William Clay Ford passed away in 2014, Ford, 94, has been the primary owner of the Lions. The team has been in the family since 1963, and most fans would admit that through the years, there hasn’t been a ton of good that has played out while the Fords have been primary owners. The Lions have just one playoff win in that span, and haven’t won a division title since 1994. Misery has been the most common emotion associated with the Lions during the family’s tenure as owners.
Since taking over from her husband, however, Ford has shown more of a propensity to shake things up rather let things sit. She hired Quinn from outside the organization a few years back. She also allowed the team to be aggressive in their pursuit of Patricia. She’s allowed the team to spend to lure free agents to town and keep their own stars. Mr. Ford was more inclined to sit back and let his trusted associates run the show however they saw fit for however long. Ford maintains her drive is strong to be able to win, and her ultimate goal is to win a Super Bowl. At her advancing age, that might be difficult unless the Lions get things right in a major hurry.
Why Ford Family Won’t Sell the Lions
Like it or not, the Lions are a family business for the Ford crew. Selling the team before Ford passes away stands almost no chance of happening. Even so, it seemed whenever Mrs. Ford passes away or wanted to take a step back as in this case, the team was likely to be passed down through the generations again to a new breed of Ford relatives. In all likelihood Martha’s daughters or her son William Clay Ford Jr. will take over as new owners. In the past, Ford Jr. has preferred to operate behind the scenes, which could mean the Lions may be set to be taken over by the next generation of Ford females.
Lions fans like to cling to hopes the Ford family will sell out, but the Lions are a Detroit product owned by a Detroit family that played a direct hand in the rise of the city. It’s impossible to see that changing in the short term, no matter how frustrated folks might be with what’s transpired with the team whether now or through the decades.
It might be a letdown to some, but it’s simply the fact. No matter how many folks might scream, plead and hang banners for the team to change hands, it’s not likely to happen.
That is likely even more the case following this announcement and shuffle in ownership.