WASHINGTON - William Clay Ford, the last surviving grandchild of automotive innovator Henry Ford and owner of the Detroit Lions, died Sunday of pneumonia at the age of 88.
Ford, who served as Ford Motor Company's director emeritus, died at his home, the company said in a statement.
Having bought the Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million, Ford would have turned 89 on Saturday.
He was the largest individual shareholder at Ford, serving as a board member and employee for 57 years after joining the company in 1949 upon graduation from Yale University.
Ford held various executive and board positions at the company, including chairman of Ford's design committee, chairman of its executive committee and a member of the office of the chief executive.
In 1980, he was elected vice chairman of the board and in 1987, chairman of the finance committee.
"My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community," said William Clay Ford, Jr., executive chairman of Ford Motor Company (IW 500/8).
Control of the team will likely go to the son, who has served as vice chairman of the Lions since February 1995.
"No owner loved his team more than Mr. Ford loved the Lions. Those of us who had the opportunity to work for Mr. Ford knew of his unyielding passion for his family, the Lions and the city of Detroit," Lions president Tom Lewand said in a statement.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally said that the carmaker was "grateful for his many contributions to the company and the auto industry."
Ford is survived by his wife, Martha Firestone Ford, plus three daughters, one son, 14 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014