Henry Ford’s great-grandson was heading for ruin and then had a better idea: spiritual enlightenment. Now, 40 years later, Alfred Ford is spending millions to build a monument in India to the faith that brought him redemption.
Alfred Ford and Michael Glancy tour Europe in 1970.
By Jay Cheshes
Alfred Ford might have been any old corporate road warrior, in his pressed khakis and soft traveling shoes. He had come up from Calcutta, a three-hour drive along dusty roads clogged with mule-drawn carts, arriving in Mayapur, West Bengal, to look in on a big building project rising near a bend in the Ganges River.
In his VIP suite, across from the site, he slipped into a loose-fitting kurta and wraparound dhoti, a strand of beads creeping out from under his Indian shirt. A murmur of song began to rise in the distance. He caught the tune, barely moving his lips. “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare.”
For 40 years Ford has been repeating the mantra just as his guru instructed, 1,728 times daily, counting off under his breath while fingering beads tucked in a cloth bag around his neck. For all that time, Alfred Brush Ford—Motor City royalty, great-grandson of Henry, heir to a comfortable slice of his family’s $1.2 billion in Ford Motor stock—has been quietly living a double life. “I have kind of a split personality,” he says, “with one foot in one world and one in another.”