Ford Motor Co. Vice Chairman William Clay Ford, the senior ranking family member at the auto company founded by Henry Ford, may soon announce his early retirement after 40 years with the company.
Ford spokesman Tom Foote refused to comment on reports that Ford, 63, will announce that he is stepping down at the auto maker’s March 9 board meeting. “We have nothing to say about it,” Foote said.
The departure of Ford, brother of the late company Chairman Henry Ford II, would leave the nation’s second-largest auto maker without a member of the Ford family in a high-ranking position for the first time in its history. Henry Ford II, grandson of Henry Ford, who founded the company in 1903, died in 1987 at age 70.
Industry sources said that even if he resigns his executive post, Ford will not leave his position on the board, where he is head of the powerful finance committee. The Ford family has 40% of the voting power in the company, and William Clay Ford is the single largest individual shareholder.
Ford, who will be 64 on March 14, is known in sports circles as the owner of the Detroit Lions football team. He rarely grants interviews and has not been prominent in company affairs in the vice chairman’s job.
“Bill Ford was always on the periphery,” former United Auto Workers President Douglas Fraser said. “When Henry was there, Henry ran the show.”
Ford’s son, William Clay Ford Jr., is managing director of Ford of Switzerland. He and his cousin, Edsel Ford II, Henry Ford II’s son, were named to the board last year.
The two cousins in late December requested that they be given more responsibilities on the board and be named to board committees. The board has yet to take action on their demand.
In his book, “The Reckoning,” author David Halberstam said William Ford was never a power at the auto maker because he felt there should be only one Ford making decisions.
However, Chrysler Corp. Chairman Lee A. Iacocca, in his book, “Iacocca: An Autobiography,” maintained that William Ford supported him, at least in spirit, against his brother when Henry Ford II fired Iacocca as Ford president in 1978.