7 APRIL 1979, Page 27

Ford Mopers


New York In the summer of 1963 Henry Ford II arrived in the South of France on board his newly built yacht, the Santa Maria. He was accompanied by his wife of 20 years, Ann, and their three children, Charlotte, Anne and Edsel. The boat docked in Villefranche bay and word went out that the 'Deuce' (as Ford is called by intimates) was finally on holiday and willing to be amused. The Santa Maria was Ford's first yacht, a gift to himself of? his 45th birthday, and an answer to his Wife's nagging about working too hard and never seeing his family. The Santa Maria was typical of a man who decides to take some time off and thinks he will enjoy himself because he's floating on water. It was an extension of his New York fiat. There was a lounge, a dining-room, four double cabins and a crew of Americans Who looked down upon a family who had nothing better to do than spend their time having drinks with some greasy Europeans. I went on a short cruise on the Santa Maria that summer. Immediately there were problems. The head steward, Angus, was a man who thought the stripes on his waiter's jacket gave him the right to run my life. I thought differently. Having been brought up in Europe and taught that servants were at best equal to, not better than, me, I came on a collision course with the puritanical Fords who listened to Angus as if he were the oracle.

One evening the chairman of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli, came on board and for the first time Angus was put in his place. Gianni was accompanied by a regiment of girls and to Ann Ford's horror introduced them all to the Deuce. That summer was the beginning of the end for Henry Ford. I say this because he picked up some horrible European habits but retained certain puritanical traits that helped get him in the trouble he finds himself in today.

His children, the girls anyhow, also fell victims to European decadence. Charlotte ran off with a man older than her father, richer too, and ended up divorced but with child two years later. Anne flirted with lots of playboys, even some Greek ones, married an Italian pizza-twirler, divorced him and is now running around with a. . . politician, Governor Carey.

But Henry is the central figure of this little drama; Henry, the puritan son of a puritan father . Having watched Agnelli going through his paces that summer, having seen for himself that some people can both work and play successfully, Henry decided to change. Instead of going to Madame Billy's, the Maison de Passe in the Rue Paul Valery, where he used to have his fun in pre-1963 days. he began to keep a mistress: 'a la Gianni. But Henry did not reckon with his wife. Ann Ford sued and got a divorce: Henry thought that the gentlemanly thing to do was to marry the lady named in the divorce case.

The marriage lasted about ten years as the Italian lady did not really fancy living in Detroit. But she fancied certain of Henry's accoutrements. Like money. She is at present suing him for most of it. Worse, she is probably the witness who will give the most damaging of testimony in the upcoming case of Ford stockholders v. Henry Ford.

When I spoke to Roy Cohn, counsel for the stockholders, he strongly hinted that Christina Ford was going to be his star witness, along with Chrysler President Lee Iacocca.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and an executive fired. At present Henry Ford is about to resign as President of the company bearing his name toward the end of the year. He is resigning under pressure. And in a way it is very unfair. None of this would have come to pass if he had stayed put that fateful summer. He'd still be married to Ann, his children would still have illusions, and Christina Ford would still be selling hosiery in Milan.