“My father was a great business leader and humanitarian who dedicated his life to the company and the community,” William Clay Ford Jr. said in a statement. “He also was a wonderful family man, a loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He will be greatly missed by everyone who knew him, yet he will continue to inspire us all.”
Ford CEO Alan Mulally said in the statement: “Mr. Ford had a profound impact on Ford Motor Company. The company extends its deepest sympathies to the many members of the extended Ford family at this difficult time. While we mourn Mr. Ford’s death, we also are grateful for his many contributions to the company and the auto industry.”
'Eye for styling'
The 1987 death of his older brother, Henry II, made William Sr. the family patriarch, and he would help preside over family meetings to monitor company finances.
Nick Scheele, a former Ford Motor president and former CEO of Jaguar Cars, said William Sr. was one of the key supporters of Ford's 1990 purchase of Jaguar, the British sports-car maker, and appreciated fine European design.
"You could see it in his Continental Mark II," Scheele said. "He had a great eye for styling."
In 1999, William Sr. saw his son, Bill, become chairman. Two years later, directors ousted Jacques Nasser as CEO and Bill took over. As CEO, Bill would oversee two restructuring plans. In 2006, in the midst of a company-record $12.6 billion loss, he yielded that post to Mulally, who led a turnaround that restored profits.
William Sr. shunned the spotlight, but at times talked about his grandfather giving him his first driving lesson at age 10 -- they were going 70 miles per hour with young William in Henry's lap when a policeman stopped them.