Auto tycoon Henry Ford II, who coveted his privacy in life, has had his affairs dragged into public view in death.
Bickering over his $350 million trust between Ford's third wife, Kathleen DuRoss Ford, and the rest of the Ford family boiled over in a public courtroom last week, with more than a dozen lawyers and a horde of reporters present.Mrs. Ford's lawsuit against her stepson, Edsel B. Ford II, tried to block the appointment of a new trustee. Although a last-minute settlement was all but approved last week, the ordeal left its mark on the Ford clan.
"I don't think there can be a victory in a case like this for anybody, said George Kemsley, an attorney for Edsel Ford. "Henry Ford desired privacy and that wish for privacy was disregarded. Consequently, I think everybody lost."
Henry Ford II took control of Ford Motor Co. in 1945 from his dying grandfather, auto pioneer Henry Ford. At age 28, he cut unprofitable divisions and hired new managers, making daily decisions that built the family company into a worldwide auto empire.
He divorced his second wife, Christina, in 1980 and married Kathleen, a 40-year-old former model, in Carson City, Nev. None of his children attended the wedding.
Before he died of pneumonia at 70 a year ago, Ford named Kathleen sole beneficiary of the trust until her death, when the money would pass on to his six grandchildren. He named three trustees: Kathleen, son Edsel, and lawyer Martin Citrin, the husband of one of Mrs. Ford's close friends.
But in April, Citrin committed suicide and the trouble began. Ford's hand-picked alternate trustee, William Donaldson, asked for a $1 million annual fee. Edsel Ford said Donaldson, a former undersecretary of state and founder of the Yale School of Organization and Management, was worth it. Mrs. Ford called it extortion and sued to block Donaldson's appointment.
She claimed in a court deposition that Edsel Ford and Donaldson threatened to reduce her income from the trust to the minimum $1.5 million spelled out in the will, a charge Edsel Ford vehemently denied.