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Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford steps down

Martha Firestone Ford (R) became the principal owner of the Detroit Lions in 2014, but relinquished the role to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, on Tuesday.  Photo by Rena Laverty/EPA-EFE
Martha Firestone Ford (R) became the principal owner of the Detroit Lions in 2014, but relinquished the role to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp, on Tuesday.  Photo by Rena Laverty/EPA-EFE

June 23 (UPI) -- Martha Firestone Ford has stepped down from her role as principal owner of the Detroit Lions and passed the job to her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp.

The Lions announced the move Tuesday. Firestone Ford, 94, took control of the team after husband William Clay Ford Sr. died in 2014.

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"It has been a great honor for our family to be associated with the Lions and with the National Football League," Firestone Ford wrote in a statement. "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."

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William Clay Ford Sr. purchased the Lions in 1963 for $4.5 million. Forbes reported the team was worth $1.95 billion in 2019. The Lions have never appeared in a Super Bowl, but won four championships before the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

"My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago," Ford Hamp said. "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.

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"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."

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Ford Hamp was the Lions' vice chairman. She also was appointed to the NFL's Super Bowl and major events advisory committee last year.

"Martha Ford has led the Lions with skill and grace for the past six seasons," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. "I have appreciated her business insights, her love of the game, her deep commitment to the NFL, and her personal kindness.

"We are pleased that the Ford family will continue to own and operate this historic franchise. Sheila Hamp has become increasingly involved in team and league affairs over the past several years and we look forward to working with her and the rest of the club's executive team."

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Firestone Ford, Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood released a statement in December after they announced their decision to retain coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn for this year. The trio said their expectation was for the Lions to be a "playoff contender in 2020."

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The Lions were 3-12-1 in 2019.

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