Detroit Lions owner history: Full list and timeline

Here's a look at the ownership history of the Detroit Lions.
Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2024 season will be the 95th in Detroit Lions' franchise history, and the 91st season in Detroit after the team started as the Portsmouth Spartans. Over that long history, the franchise has only had seven people at the top of the proverbial letterhead, and two of them spanned the same timeframe as partial owners.

Of course a big part of the reason the Lions have only had seven principal owners is clear. The Ford family has been involved with the team since 1961, starting in 1961 with William Clay Ford Sr., who eventually became principal owner. His widow Martha Firestone Ford took over in 2014, and their daughter Sheila Ford Hamp became principal owner in 2020.

Over four years as the principal owner and chairman (almost exactly, June 23,2020), Hamp has changed the long-running narrative around the Lions, hiring competent people in key football positions and giving them all they need to foster success on the field.

"Sell The Team" had been a long-running thing with Lions' fans, even right to the announcement Hamp was taking over as principal owner. Now she is getting nice local honors for how she has led the franchise's turnaround.

Going back to the start of the franchise through to Hamp now, here's a look at who the Lions have had as owner over the course of their history, with the timeline they each ran the show.

Detroit Lions ownership history: Full list and timeline

Harry Snyder (1930-1933, Portsmouth Spartans): Controlling Owner
George Richards (1936-1939):
Principal Owner
Fred Mandel (1940-1947): Principal Owner
Edwin Anderson (1948-1963): Partial Owner/President, Partial Owner/President/GM, Partial Owner/VP
Lyle Fife (1948-1963): Partial Owner/President, Partial Owner/President
William Clay Ford, Sr. (1963-2013): President/Chairman of the Board, Principal Owner/Chairman
Martha Firestone Ford (2014-2020): Owner/Chairman
Sheila Ford Hamp (2020-present): Principal Owner/Chairman

-Snyder was the owner of Universal Contracting Co.
-Richards was a radio station owner, including WJR in Detroit. He moved the team to Detroit and renamed it the Lions upon buying it.
-Mandel was part of the family that owned the Mandel Brothers Department Store in Chicago.
-Fife and Anderson were part of the Detroit Football Company, a seven-person syndicate who bought the team. Fife owned an electrical supply company, and Anderson was president of Goebel Brewing Company.
-Ford Sr. succeeded Anderson as team president in 1961, then he bought a controlling share of the Lions in 1963.


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