William Clay Ford Sr., the primary shareholder of Ford Motor Company and majority owner of the Detroit Lions 50 years running, died Sunday a little less than a week before his 89th birthday.

NFL Network's Albert Breer confirmed the news after speaking with team president Tom Lewand.

Ford, the last surviving grandchild of legendary automotive maven Henry Ford, was one of the more prominent faces of the family business during the 20th century. He controlled a majority share of the stocks, serving on the board of directors as Ford continued to stake its claim among the best American automotive makers.

Amid slower-than-expected economic recovery, Ford still managed to turn in an $8.5 billion profit last year, according to Forbes. The magazine also estimates he is the 409th-richest man in the United States with a net worth of $1.35 billion.

For sports fans, though, Ford will forever be remembered for his time shepherding professional football in Detroit. Ford purchased a controlling interest in the Lions in November 1963, officially closing the sale on Jan. 10, 1964. Only Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, 95, owned an NFL team longer than Ford. Wilson has been with Buffalo since its inception in 1959.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press noted Ford purchased sole control of the Lions for $45 million, adjusted for inflation. It would be nearly impossible for any NFL team to go for less than $1 billion if put on the open market in today's financial climate, with profits skyrocketing across major sports.