Lions announce Martha Ford to step down as principal owner

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 18: Detroit Lions Owner Martha Firestone Ford on the field prior to the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions on September 18, 2017, at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ.

The Detroit Lions announced Tuesday that owner Martha Firestone Ford will step down as principal owner of the team.

The Lions made the surprising announcement at 10 a.m. on Tuesday that Ford, who has been the owner since 2014, would step down and would be succeeded by her daughter, Sheila Ford Hamp.

"Mrs. Hamp has been active in team leadership and National Football League Activities for several years in preparation for officially assuming team leadership," the team said in a statement.

Martha Ford succeeded her husband, William Clay Ford, as the primary owner on March 9, 2014, after he served as the team owner for 50 years. 

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

Martha's bio on the team's website has already been updated and reflects her new position as Chairman Emeritus to support Sheila and her other children - Vice Chairman Martha Ford Morse, Vice Chairman William Clay Ford. Jr, and Vice Chairman Elizabeth Ford Kontulis.

"My mother has inspired all of us since taking on leadership of the Lions over six years ago. 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. 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," Sheila said in a statement. 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also issued a statement regarding the transition of ownership.

"Martha Ford has led the Lions with skill and grace for the past six seasons.  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," Goodell said.  

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