The Detroit Lions didn’t go far to find a new president, hiring Ford family confidant Rod Wood to run the team.
The Lions announced Wood as their new team president in a news release today. He takes over from Tom Lewand, who was fired along with general manager Martin Mayhew two weeks ago, while the Lions were languishing with a 1-7 start.
Wood, 55, has a background in private equity and spent the past eight years as CEO and president of Ford Estates, the private company that helps Ford family members with investments and other personal logistics.
He never has held an official role in the NFL but has been around the team’s Allen Park headquarters frequently in recent months.
Wood is considered a confidant of Sheila Ford Hamp, daughter of Lions owner Martha Ford, and will help the Fords with their ongoing search for a new general manager.
His appointment comes four days after the Lions beat the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field for the first time since 1991.
“I am most pleased to announce Rod Wood as our new team president,” Martha Ford said in a statement released by the team. “Rod’s familiarity with our organization in his role as president and CEO of Ford Estates and his accomplishments in the business world not only make him an ideal choice as team president, but will also help ensure a smooth and positive transition for our organization.
“It was critical to me and my family to fill the president’s position as soon as possible, provided we identified the right person. I am confident Rod is the right person.”
Wood, whom the Lions said is not available for comment today, is expected to hold a news conference Friday afternoon.
“I am humbled and honored to accept this position,” Wood said in a statement. “Mrs. Ford has made it clear that her goal, and the goal of the Ford Family, is to make the Detroit Lions a championship football team and organization. In my role as team President, I will do everything possible to provide our organization with all the means necessary to succeed on the football field and provide our fans and city with a championship organization both on and off the field.”
Ford, her four children — Hamp, Martha Ford Morse, Bill Ford Jr. and Elizabeth Ford Kontulis — and Wood will comprise an advisory board that the Lions will use in their search for a new GM, though Ford indicated that the organization will lean on the NFL’s career development advisory panel for input in its search.
The NFL has established a 10-person committee of former coaches, general managers and league personnel to help teams in coach and GM searches. Ron Wolf, Bill Polian, John Madden and former Lions executive Shack Harris are on the committee.
Ford, in her statement, said the NFL will evaluate the possibility of having one member of its advisory panel work more closely with the Lions in their GM search.
Wolf, Ernie Accorsi and Charlie Casserly all have told the Free Press that they have not been approached by the Lions to assist in their search.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he has had “quite a bit” of interaction with Wood during his one and a half seasons with the team.
“Typically, in most of my interactions with him, he’s been around a lot with Mrs. Ford here,” Caldwell said. “So I’m well acquainted with him.”
Asked about Wood’s football acumen, Caldwell said, “He’s a smart man.”
“And I understand that his duties will certainly be spelled out directly, and he’ll talk tomorrow a little bit more about them,” Caldwell said. “But he’ll do a great job.”
The Lions now have to convince the rest of the NFL, including the top candidates to become general manager, that that’s the case.
Privately, several members of the NFL’s search committee and others around the league have asked the Free Press about the Lions’ ownership structure.
Bill Ford Jr. has said publicly that he’s no longer involved with day-to-day operations of the team — Ford Hamp has taken a bigger role inside the organization — and many wonder about the team’s succession plan for ownership.
Ford, in her statement, said she is “supremely confident” Wood “will do a great job in his role as president.” And Caldwell indicated that Wood’s lack of a football background won’t be an impediment to doing the job.
“I also know how critically important hiring the right GM is to the success of our football team,” Ford said in her statement. “Our No. 1 goal and focus will always be to produce a championship football team and hiring the best GM possible is the next step to making that a reality.”
Before his work with Ford Estates, Wood was executive vice president of wealth management for the Wilmington Trust Company in Delaware.
Wood is a graduate of Goodrich High School and a University of Michigan alum.