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The Ford family fortune today: inside a secretive dynasty

What's happened to the Ford family fortune?

<p>Bryan Mitchell/Stringer/Getty Images</p>

Bryan Mitchell/Stringer/Getty Images

Henry Ford: second-generation immigrant, entrepreneur, and founding father of one of America's most famous companies. By making cars affordable for the masses, he built up a fortune that would be worth around $200 billion (£162bn) today – but what happened to all that money after he died in 1947?

While Henry Ford is a household name thanks to his eponymous Ford Motor Company, little is known about his descendants. That's despite the fact they still control the family business, which is now the 19th largest company in America, according to Fortune.

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Read on as we look at the lives of some of the key living members of the Ford family, who were collectively worth $2 billion (£1.7bn) according to data shared by Forbes in 2015. All dollar amounts in US dollars.

Martha Firestone Ford: Henry Ford's granddaughter-in-law – $800 million (£646m)

<p>Nic Antaya/Contributor/Getty Images</p>

Nic Antaya/Contributor/Getty Images

Henry Ford and his wife Clara had one child, a son named Edsel (1893-1943). While Edsel's four children have all passed away, one of their spouses is still alive: Martha Firestone Ford, 98, who married William Clay Ford Sr in 1947.

According to the latest data from Forbes, Martha's net worth was $1.4 billion (£1.1bn) in 2019, but she seemingly lost her billionaire status the following year. While her exact fortune today is unknown – estimates put it somewhere in the region of $800 million (£646m) – we do know how Martha came to be so rich in the first place – and it isn't solely due to marrying into the Ford family.

Boasting wealthy relatives, Martha is the paternal granddaughter of the founders of the Firestone Tire & Rubber Company. The business enjoyed a close relationship with the Ford Motor Company and was the first major equipment supplier to partner with the car manufacturer in the 1900s.

Martha Firestone Ford: Henry Ford's granddaughter-in-law – $800 million (£646m)

<p>Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images</p>

Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

Martha, pictured here with then-fiancé William Clay Ford shortly after announcing their engagement to the press, inherited her husband's wealth following his death in 2014.

According to Forbes data, William was reportedly worth $1.35 billion (£1bn) when he died. But it wasn't just money Martha inherited; William also left her his majority stake in American football team the Detroit Lions, which he bought for $4.5 million in 1961. That's the equivalent of over $44.8 million (£36m) in today's money, while the team's current valuation stands at over $3 billion (£2.4bn).

Martha Firestone Ford: Henry Ford's granddaughter-in-law – $800 million (£646m)

<p>Leon Halip/Stringer/Getty Images</p>

Leon Halip/Stringer/Getty Images

One of just a dozen female NFL owners in the US, Martha remained the majority shareholder of the team for six years, with each of the couple's four children holding a minority stake.

Martha stepped down as owner in 2020, passing the role onto her daughter Sheila Ford Hamp, which may explain why she dropped off Forbes' list of billionaires that same year.

However, Martha has held onto her position on the board of the Henry Ford Health System, a non-profit that was launched in 1915 and is currently run by 17 trustees. She's pictured here with Detroit Lions president Rod Wood at a football game in December 2017.

Edsel Ford II: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $500 million (£404m)

<p>Daniel Kalisz/Stringer/Getty Images</p>

Daniel Kalisz/Stringer/Getty Images

Edsel Ford II was born in 1948. The great-grandson of Henry Ford, Edsel's father was Henry Ford II and his grandfather was Edsel Ford.

From 1978 to 1980, the junior Edsel worked as the head of sales and marketing at Ford Australia.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1979, he revealed: "My father said to me: 'You go down to Australia and do the best job you know how, and then the corporation will decide what your next step will be.’ Presumably, if I do a good job they'll reward me, but that's all I can say. I'm really taking it one step at a time".

Edsel Ford II: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $500 million (£404m)

<p>Chris Graythen/Staff/Getty Images</p>

Chris Graythen/Staff/Getty Images

Although there's no official financial data relating to Edsel available, online estimates suggest his net worth is around $500 million (£404m).

While working in Australia, rumours began to circulate that he was tipped for the top job of Ford chief executive. Ultimately, he didn't land the role, but he has served on the company board and became president and chief operating officer of the Ford Motor Credit Company in 1991. In 1993, he was elected as a Ford vice president. But Edsel really made a name for himself in the world of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (better known as NASCAR).

Credited with reinvigorating the sport by deepening Ford's involvement after the energy crisis in the 1970s, he became the sixth-ever recipient of a Landmark Award For Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR in 2020. He's pictured here with driver Brad Keselowski in 2017.

Edsel Ford II: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $500 million (£404m)

<p>Courtesy pentastaraviation.com</p>

Courtesy pentastaraviation.com

In 2001, Edsel purchased the Michigan-based aviation services company Pentastar Aviation from the Chrysler Corporation. He remains the sole owner of the business to this day.

Although it hasn't been revealed how much Ford paid for the company, it's currently estimated to bring in annual revenues of around $95.3 million (£77m).

Alfred Brush Ford: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $100 million (£81m)

<p>DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY / Stringer / Getty Images</p>

DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY / Stringer / Getty Images

Alfred Brush Ford, 73, is another great-grandson of Henry Ford and – according to a Town & Country interview from 2015 – has shares in the family's then-$1.2 billion (£970m) worth of company stock.

Growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, Alfred stated in the interview that he had "a normal upbringing". He's seemingly attempted to distance himself from the glitz and glamour surrounding the family over the years, with a Forbes article from 2000 describing him as the part-owner of a website design company. In other interviews, he's alluded to not being involved in Ford.

But he doesn't appear to have shunned his inheritance, which he's put towards a rather unexpected use...

Alfred Brush Ford: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $100 million (£81m)

<p>Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images</p>

Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

A follower of the Hare Krishna movement, Alfred – who also goes by the name Ambarish Das – has invested millions of dollars into building monuments and cultural sites across America, India, and even Russia.

In 1975, along with Elisabeth Luis Reuther, daughter of a key figure in the United Auto Workers union, he bought and refurbished a Detroit mansion before donating it to the Bhaktivedanta Cultural Center of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. The refurbishments alone cost $2 million (£1.6m).

Another major project is the Temple of the Vedic Planetarium in Mayapur, to which Alfred has contributed $25 million (£20m) in seed money. Construction of the temple began in 2009 and is still ongoing today. Speaking to Rediff, Alfred said: "I was nervous as that was the time the Ford company was about to go bankrupt because of the economic downturn". (In fact, Ford narrowly avoided bankruptcy in 2009).

This picture shows Alfred and Elisabeth sitting beneath a mural in the mansion in 1983.

Alfred Brush Ford: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $100 million (£81m)

<p>DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY / Stringer / Getty Images</p>

DESHAKALYAN CHOWDHURY / Stringer / Getty Images

Alfred and his wife Sharmila (pictured left) are also keen art dealers.

In 1985, they were named the top collectors of Indian art by Arts and Antiques Magazine, with "a team of devotee friends" who went to India on their behalf to source antiquities.

In his interview with Rediff, Alfred said the art market was "okay", revealing they "sold a lot of things to my family members actually. My mother was the best customer. She loved the art and bought a lot of it for her houses. Detroit is not a hotbed for Oriental art".

Today, Alfred is estimated to have a net worth in the region of $100 million (£81m).

Elena Ford: Henry Ford's great-great-granddaughter – $125 million (£101m)

<p>Poplar313, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons</p>

Poplar313, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Elena Ford, 57, became the first female member of the Ford family to hold an executive position in the company when she was elected a vice president in 2013.

The daughter of Charlotte Ford, Henry Ford's great-granddaughter, and the Greek shipping billionaire Stavros Niarchos, Elena has an estimated net worth of $125 million (£101m) – but that figure could have been a whole lot higher.

Elena Ford: Henry Ford's great-great-granddaughter – $125 million (£101m)

<p>Poplar313, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons</p>

Poplar313, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

When Niarchos died in 1996, he excluded Elena from his will, choosing instead to leave half of his considerable fortune to charitable causes and the remaining 50% to his four children by his third wife, Eugenia Livanos.

Elena sued her late father's estate for 10% of his fortune, which would have amounted to around $700 million (£566m) at the time. However, a court in Athens ruled that she had no right to the money.

Elena Ford: Henry Ford's great-great-granddaughter – $125 million (£101m)

<p>Courtesy media.ford.com</p>

Courtesy media.ford.com

In addition to her role as vice president, Elena has held a range of other positions at Ford. She joined the company as a marketing executive in 1995 and has since "served in a number of marketing, brand strategy and business management roles", according to the Ford Media Center.

She may have made history as the first-ever female family member to rise to an executive position, but 2011 saw her hit headlines for all the wrong reasons when she was arrested for drunk driving in Detroit.

CNN report at the time suggested that "Elena's brush with the law will presumably end her career ambitions". But that hasn't been the case. Just over a decade later, Elena was promoted to Ford's chief customer experience officer and has recently taken on the role of chief dealer engagement officer.

William Clay Ford Jr: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Ford Motor Company, CC BY 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons</p>

Ford Motor Company, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

William 'Bill' Clay Ford Jr, 66, is the son of Martha Firestone and William Clay Ford Sr and the great-grandson of Henry Ford.

Like his cousin Alfred, Bill is interested in spirituality and "Eastern mysticism", according to an article published in The New York Times Magazine in 2000.

It might seem ironic that a self-proclaimed environmentalist would work for one of the world's biggest automakers. However, Bill – who was estimated to own $185 million (£151m) in Ford stock in 1999 – told The New York Times: "I guess I always felt I owed everything I had to the Ford Motor Company, so I wanted to help".

William Clay Ford Jr: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Bryan Mitchell/Stringer/Getty Images</p>

Bryan Mitchell/Stringer/Getty Images

Bill joined the company in 1979 and became chair of the Ford board of directors in January 1999.

He's held a number of other positions at the company over the years, ranging from general manager of the Climate Control Division to head of the company’s Commercial Truck Vehicle Center.

As Ford's executive chair, Bill reportedly earned $18,662,706 (£15m) in 2021, including a base salary of $1.7 million (£1.4m), $1.08 million (£890k) in bonuses, and $2.1 million (£1.7m) from "other types of compensation".

A whopping $13.8 million (£11m) of that total figure, or 74%, came from company stock.

William Clay Ford Jr: Henry Ford's great-grandson – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Al Messerschmidt/Staff/Getty Images</p>

Al Messerschmidt/Staff/Getty Images

Bill's fortune became even larger in 2014 when his father, William Clay Ford Sr, passed away at the age of 88.

Like his three siblings and their mother Martha, Bill received a share of his father's $1.35 billion (£1.1bn) fortune, as well as a minority stake in the Detroit Lions. His current net worth sits at an estimated $1 billion (£808k), according to online estimates.

Sheila Ford Hamp: Henry Ford's great-granddaughter – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Rey Del Rio/Stringer/Getty Images</p>

Rey Del Rio/Stringer/Getty Images

Sheila Ford Hamp, 72, is another of Martha Firestone and William Clay Ford Sr's four children.

Like her brother Bill, she boasts an estimated net worth of $1 billion (£808k) and is a descendant of both the Firestone and Ford families.

However, some sources suggest her net worth could actually sit between $4 billion to $10 billion (£3.2bn to £8bn), with a substantial portion of that coming via her ownership of the Detroit Lions NFL team.

Sheila Ford Hamp: Henry Ford's great-granddaughter – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Nic Antaya/Contributor/Getty Images</p>

Nic Antaya/Contributor/Getty Images

Sheila took over the role of owner and chairwoman from her mother Martha (pictured right), on 23 June 2020, receiving the majority stake in the $3 billion (£2.4bn) team.

And she has many other strings to her bow. Part of the first cohort of women to graduate from Yale University in the 1970s, Sheila is also the chair of the board for the Detroit Lions Foundation and sits on the board of the Purple Rose Theatre Company in Chelsea, Michigan.

Sheila Ford Hamp: Henry Ford's great-granddaughter – $1 billion (£808k)

<p>Courtesy neweconomyinitiative.org</p>

Courtesy neweconomyinitiative.org

But not all her endeavours are separate from the family business. Sheila is an emeritus trustee of The Henry Ford, the museum complex that her family owns in the suburbs of Detroit.

Her husband Steven Hamp (pictured), who reportedly boasts his own $3 million (£2.4m) fortune, is a life trustee of the institution, which boasts a number of Ford-related attractions across a 250-acre site.

Sheila also serves on the boards of The Ford Motor Company Fund and the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House. The Michigan mansion belonged to her grandparents and became a National Historic Landmark in 2016.

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