Cynthia Ford: 'This is not ... domestic violence'

James David Dickson, Holly Fournier, and Michael Martinez

Grosse Pointe Farms — Five weeks after their divorce proceeding was dismissed, Edsel Ford II spent a night in jail Monday after a domestic violence incident with his wife, Cynthia.

Edsel B. Ford II

Alcohol was involved in the incident that took place around 11:30 p.m. Monday at the Fords' Lakeshore Road home, according to Grosse Pointe Farms Detective Lt. Rich Rosati. But the 67-year-old great-grandson of Henry Ford was not criminally charged Tuesday, after city Prosecutor Robert Ihrie decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute and Cynthia Ford chose not to pursue charges.

“The only evidence here is there was a sign there had been a physical altercation,” said Daniel Jensen, Grosse Pointe Farms director of public safety. “There was no knock-down drag-out battle here, but hands were placed.”

Police say Edsel Ford took away his wife’s cellphone as she tried to record the incident. That, along with “signs of a struggle,” were part of the reason he was arrested, Jensen said. Cynthia Ford later was able to call 911 on the home phone, police said.

Attorney Todd Flood released a statement attributed to Cynthia Ford on Tuesday night: “I would like to clarify this situation: contrary to reports, this is not a case of domestic violence. I stand behind true victims of domestic violence and I am not one of them. My husband and I ask that you respect our privacy and that of our family. We are working in the right direction to heal from this experience and move forward.”

Edsel Ford will not face charges from the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, according to spokeswoman Maria Miller.

"The City Attorney has made a decision to deny the case," Miller said Wednesday. "The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office is not involved in the matter."

Active in Ford racing

In recent years, Ford family disputes have not generally played out so publicly.

Edsel Ford II is a prominent figure in the Grosse Pointes and Metro Detroit for his philanthropic work as well as his role with his namesake Ford Motor Co. He’s the son of Henry Ford II, who was the automaker’s president from 1945-60, and is cousin to current Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. One of his four children, Henry Ford III, is global marketing manager of Ford Performance.

Edsel Ford II sits on the company’s board of directors and has a corner office near the top of Ford’s Glass House headquarters in Dearborn that includes the original wooden desk of Henry Ford. He is active in the company’s racing program.

Last month, he stood on the winners podium with cousin Bill, celebrating Ford’s victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France. Edsel Ford’s father was the architect behind Ford’s podium sweep at Le Mans in 1966, which cemented the American company’s place among the greats like Ferrari and Porsche. Edsel Ford II was 18 when he traveled to Le Mans with his father for that race.

In 1991, he was named president and chief operating officer of the company’s finance arm, Ford Credit. He was elected a company vice president in 1993.

Ford Motor Co. declined to comment on the incident.

“We are aware of what has been reported in the press, but it would be inappropriate to comment on personal matters,” the company said in a statement.

Philanthropy and Ford

Edsel Ford II has an extensive philanthropic background. He was founding chairman of the Detroit 300 Conservancy, which helped create Campus Martius park downtown. He is former chairman of the National Advisory Board of the Salvation Army, president of Detroit Children’s Fund and board member emeritus of Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

He also is owner and chairman of Pentastar Aviation, an aviation services provider based at Oakland County International Airport.

In 2014, Edsel and his wife drew attention when they posted a giant banner showing support for a Planned Parenthood fundraiser; the banner was a rebuttal to a “respect for life” display at a nearby church.

Monday night was the first time police had been called to the home on a domestic violence allegation, Jensen said.

Because Cynthia Ford was not using the phone to call 911, and was not being deprived of the ability to seek emergency assistance — she was able to use a phone minutes later to make the call — it didn’t rise to the level of a felony, Jensen said.

Generally, Grosse Pointe Farms police send misdemeanor domestic violence cases to the city prosecutor. Felonies are sent to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

Dan Jensen, Grosse Pointe Farms director of public safety (second from left), and Detective Lt. Rich Rosati, left, announce the city prosecutor won’t bring misdemeanor domestic violence charges against Edsel Ford II because of lack of evidence Tuesday inside Judge Matthew R. Rumora’s courtroom at 32-B District Court in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Brief divorce proceeding

The alleged incident followed the couple’s recent — but brief — divorce proceedings prompted by Edsel Ford’s April 5 complaint filed in Wayne County Circuit Court’s family division. The filing claimed “a breakdown of the marriage relationship to the extent that the objects of matrimony have been destroyed and there remains no likelihood that the marriage can be preserved.”

His wife was served with divorce papers two days later outside Plum Market on Orchard Lake in West Bloomfield Township, according to court filings. She responded April 28 with a counterclaim seeking to freeze assets during the proceedings and to be granted either “lifetime spousal support” or a dismissal of the divorce.

“(Edsel Ford) should be ordered to pay (Cynthia Ford) lifetime spousal support based on his superior ability to earn a substantial living, the parties’ standard of living throughout the marriage and other factors which support an award of spousal support,” the wife wrote in her counterclaim.

The divorce was dismissed May 25 after Judge Lisa Neilson was “advised of the parties’ mutual desire” to end the proceedings.

The two were married Sept. 28, 1974, in Tequesta, Florida. Their wedding was decorated with more than 7,500 daisies, and race car driver Jackie Stewart was an usher.

“He’s too nice for me,” Cynthia told the Associated Press in 1974 shortly before their wedding. “I have a short fuse. He’s the most even-tempered person in the world. Very few things get his goat.”

This isn’t the first time the Ford family has been in the news for messy marital disputes.

In 1980, Henry Ford II and his estranged second wife, Italian socialite Cristina Bettore, marked their 15th wedding anniversary in a Detroit courtroom on the first day of a bitter divorce proceeding. (He and his first wife, Anne McDonnell — who is Edsel Ford II’s mother — divorced in 1964.)

Ford had been arrested for drunken driving on California’s Pacific Coast Highway in 1975 with model Kathleen DuRoss in the car. Following the arrest, he famously said, “Never complain, never explain.”

DuRoss became Ford’s third wife the year the divorce with his second wife became final.