Wood says Fords in Lions plans for long haul

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

When the Lions interviewed Bob Quinn for general manager last month, he asked about the team’s ownership succession plans. Team president Rod Wood said the team gave Quinn a satisfactory answer, but declined to provide much detail.

Lions president Rod Wood, with owner Martha Firestone Ford, said in a radio interview  on 105.1 (WMGC-FM) a succession plan is in place.

Thursday, during an hourlong interview with Detroit Sports 105.1 (WMGC-FM), Wood shared one detail of the team’s plans beyond 90-year-old owner Martha Firestone Ford.

“I’d rather not get into any of the inner family discussions,” Wood said before getting into it a bit. “I’m very involved in the plans to succeed Mrs. Ford within the family and the ownership, and beyond that, I’d rather leave all that to those who are in the room as opposed to talk about it outside the room.

“But I can assure the fans and the community that the Ford family is committed to owning the Lions long term.”

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The Ford family has owned the team since William Clay Ford Sr. bought it in 1963. When he died in March 2014, his widow took over as owner and chairwoman.

Their only son, Bill Ford Jr., has had a minimal role in the organization the past two years despite being heavily involved when his father was in charge. Instead, daughters Sheila Ford Hamp and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis have had an increased presence with the team.

Death of an owner in the NFL often leads to a sale as splitting the asset can be messy for a family. As Wood said, the Fords are committed to continuing their ownership, but it’s unclear which of the children would replace Martha Ford in the future.

During Wood’s radio interview, one fan asked about the difference between the past leadership under William Clay Ford Sr. and the current regime run by Martha Ford.

“I couldn’t overstate how much they care about this organization and how much they care about this city and how much they care about our fans,” Wood said. “And Mrs. Ford, obviously, got impatient enough last year that she made big decisions that hadn’t been made by this organization before. I think it’s a new time for the team, both in terms of ownership and the executives that she’s hired to lead it.

“And I just ask our fans to give us a chance and hopefully we’ll prove it right in the fall.”

Of course, Wood understands why some people would be skeptical about the future. Since the Ford family took over more than 50 years ago, the Lions have won just one postseason game.

“Skepticism is appropriate, and until we deliver, I don’t think anybody should believe anything I say,” Wood said. “You have to judge us based upon what we do.

“Until we deliver, I think people are right to be skeptical, but I can tell you that Mrs. Ford and her family understand, and want to deliver for the fans and are willing to make the tough choices.”