About Henry Ford, II
Henry Ford II (September 4, 1917 — September 29, 1987), commonly known as "HF2" and "Hank the Deuce", was the son of Edsel Ford and grandson of Henry Ford. He was president of the Ford Motor Company from 1945 to 1960, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) from 1960 to 1979, and chairman for several months thereafter.
Henry Ford II was born in Detroit, Michigan to Eleanor Clay Ford and Edsel Ford on September 4, 1917. He and his brothers, Benson and William, grew up amid affluence, but their father tried to make sure that they understood the meaning of work and money.
When his father Edsel, the president of Ford, died of cancer in May 1943 (during World War II), Henry Ford II was serving in the navy, and was thus unable to take over the presidency of the family-owned business. The elderly and ailing Henry Ford, company founder, decided to assume the presidency. By this point in his life, he was mentally inconsistent, suspicious, and generally no longer fit for such a job; most of the directors did not want to see him as president. But for the previous 20 years, although he had long been without any official executive title, he had always had de facto control over the company; the board and the management had never seriously defied him, and this moment was not different. The directors elected him, and he served until the end of the war. During this period the company began to decline, losing over $10 million a month. The administration of President Franklin Roosevelt had been considering a government takeover of the company in order to ensure continued war production, but the idea never progressed to execution.
Henry Ford II left the Navy in July 1943 and joined the company's management a few weeks later. After 2 years, he took over the presidency of the company on September 21, 1945. Since it had been assumed that Edsel Ford would continue in his capacity as president of the company for much longer than turned out to actually be the case, Henry Ford II had received little grooming for the position, and he took over the company during a chaotic period; its European factories had suffered a great deal of damage during the war, and domestic sales were also in decline.
Henry Ford II immediately adopted an aggressive management style. One of his first acts as company president was to fire Harry Bennett, head of the Ford Service Department, who had originally been hired by Henry Ford to stifle attempts at unionization. Next, acknowledging his inexperience, he hired several seasoned executives to support him. He hired former General Motors executives Ernest Breech and Lewis Crusoe away from the Bendix Corporation. Breech was to serve in the coming years as HF2's business mentor, and the Breech–Crusoe team would form the core of Ford's business expertise, offering much-needed experience.
Additionally, HF2 hired ten young up-and-comers, known as the "Whiz Kids". These ten, gleaned from an Army Air Forces statistical team, HF2 envisioned as giving the company the ability to innovate and stay current with the times. Two of them, Arjay Miller and Robert McNamara, would go on to serve as president of Ford themselves. A third member, J. Edward Lundy, served in key financial roles for several decades and helped to establish Ford Finance's reputation as one of the best Finance organizations in the world. As a team, the "whiz kids" are probably best remembered as the design team for the 1949 Ford, which they took from concept to production in nineteen months, and which re-established Ford as a formidable automotive company. It was reported that 100,000 orders for this car were taken the day it was introduced to the market.
Henry Ford II was president of Ford Motor Company from 1945 to 1960. The company became a publicly traded corporation under his leadership in 1956. When he resigned the presidency, he became CEO of the company. On July 13, 1960 he was additionally elected Chairman; he resigned as CEO on October 1, 1979, and as Chairman in 1980. His nephew, William Clay Ford, Jr. would later assume these positions after 20 years of non-Ford family management of the company. During the interim, the family interests were represented on the board by Henry's younger brother William Clay Ford, Sr., as well as his son Edsel Ford II and his nephew William Clay Ford, Jr.
Upon the release of the CVCC engine by Honda Motor Company, Ford's then-President Lee Iacocca was highly interested in adopting the new engine in a small Ford vehicle, possibly the Pinto or Fiesta- perhaps even going as far to sell the Honda Civic as a Ford. The plan was scuttled by Henry Ford II, who stated: "No car with my name on the hood is going to have a Jap engine inside." (Note: This quote comes from Iacocca's autobiography nearly a decade after Iacocca was fired. It also flies in the face of common sense, since Ford Motor Company had been selling a Mazda truck as the Ford Courier since late 1971 and HF2 personally signed off on every new car—while the CVCC wasn't tested by the EPA until October 1972). This bit of anger was perhaps understandable for a man who had served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, but the Ford Motor Company did go on to adapt to the era in which Japanese, German, and American participation in a globalized automobile industry became tightly integrated. For example, Ford's relationship with Mazda was well developed even before the end of HF2's period of influence.
HF2's management style caused the company's fortunes to fluctuate in more ways than one. For example, his offering of public stock in 1956 raised 650 million USD for the company, but the "experimental car" program instituted during his tenure, the Edsel, lost the company almost half that. Likewise, HF2 hired the creative Lee Iacocca, who was fundamental to the success of the Ford Mustang, in 1964, but fired Iacocca due to personal disputes and bad business decisions (rushing the Pinto into production without proper testing, cutting production corners to boost the bottom line, horrid quality control and lawsuits arising from same.) in 1978 (about the break in their relationship, HF2 was famously quoted as saying, "Sometimes you just don't like somebody"). Nevertheless, Henry Ford II's overall influence on the company was substantial. By the time he retired as Chairman in 1980, Ford Motor Company was the fourth-largest industrial corporation in the world. He retired as an officer and employee of Ford Motor Company on October 1, 1982, as per the company's mandatory retirement age of 65, but remained the ultimate source of authority at Ford until his death in 1987.
Awards and achievements
He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1969.
Ford was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1996.
Henry Ford II was married three times:
Anne McDonnell (1920—1996), a daughter of James F. McDonnell. They married in 1940 and divorced in 1964 (she married Deane F. Johnson in 1968). The Fords had three children: Charlotte, Anne, and Edsel Ford II
Maria Cristina Vettore (born 1926), formerly wife of Lt. William Austin, a British naval officer; married 1965, divorced 1980
Kathleen Roberta King (born 1939), widow of David DuRoss (died 1968); she and Ford were married in Carson City, Nevada, 1980. By this marriage Ford had two stepdaughters, Deborah and Kimberly.
He died of pneumonia in Detroit at Henry Ford Hospital on September 29, 1987, at the age of 70.
Henry Ford II ("HF2" and "Hank the Deuce")'s Timeline
September 4, 1917
Detroit, Wayne Co., MI
September 21, 1945
November 9, 1960
September 29, 1987