DETROIT - Edsel Ford begins representing the Ford family in May as an outside, or nonemployee, director on the Ford Motor Co. board.
Edsel Ford joined the Ford board in 1988. But as a company employee, he has been an inside director.
He stays on the board's finance committee, and as an outside director, gains a seat on the board's Organization Review and Nominating Committee, which oversees management.
'One of the things I accomplish by becoming a nonemployee is that I can become a member of the Organization Review and Nominating Committee,' Edsel Ford said in an interview with Automotive News. 'I was the only board member not on that committee because I was an employee.'
Edsel Ford's departure from Ford Motor Co.'s payroll leaves Eleana Ford, 31, as the only Ford family member who is a company employee.
She is a member of the product development finance staff, and is the first woman from the Ford family to work in the family firm. She joined Ford in fall of 1995, a company spokesperson said. Eleana Ford, a fifth-generation Ford, is the daughter of Edsel's sister, Charlotte.
In January 1995, Edsel's cousin, William Clay Ford Jr., 40, resigned as a company vice president to head the Ford board of directors finance committee.
The Ford family's Class B stock controls 40 percent of Ford Motor Co.'s voting power. Edsel's father, Henry Ford II, was the last Ford family member to run the company. He was president from 1945 until 1960, and chairman from 1960 to 1980.
Edsel Ford's announcement last week triggered another round of succession scenarios in the media, where William Clay Ford Jr., known as Bill, is widely expected to succeed Ford Chairman Alex Trotman as a nonexecutive chairman in 2000.
Bill Ford is an executive with the Detroit Lions football team, owned by his father, William Clay Ford Sr. According to the 1996 proxy statement, William Clay Ford Sr. holds 23.5 percent of Ford Class B (voting) stock; his son has 4.5 percent; and Edsel Ford has 7.7 percent. Other family members own the rest.
In 1979, Edsel Ford's cousin Benson Ford Jr., then 29, failed in a bid to gain a seat on Ford's board and an active leadership role in the company. Benson Jr. claimed that he was entitled to the seat because it had been occupied by his late father, Benson Ford, who was a brother of Henry Ford II and William Clay Ford Sr.
At the time, Henry Ford II said, 'There are no crown princes in the Ford Motor Co., and there is no privileged route to the top.'