Entertainment giant Mike Ilitch wants city tax dollars but his company fails to pay its own taxes

Entertainment giant Mike Ilitch has been urging state lawmakers to approve the release of $13 million in taxes so he can build a multi-use sporting complex in downtown Detroit.

Turns out, the billionaire’s company, Olympia Entertainment, owes Detroit nearly $1 million in unpaid property taxes on downtown’s Cobo Arena and Joe Louis Arena dating back to 2009.

The disclosure was made today in Lansing while lawmakers were debating a tax break to go along with Illitch’s proposed $650-million entertainment district that would include housing, retail and office space.

The discovery could be a significant – and sloppy – setback for an enormous downtown plan that was to generate jobs, apartments, entertainment and taxes.

This is a public relations nightmare. Who wants to hand over millions of public dollars to a billionaire who won’t pay his own taxes?

And why would Ilitch’s company risk derailing the project by failing to pay what amounts to .04% of his reported net worth?

Was he sloppy? Arrogant? Greedy?

Ilich’s company didn’t return calls.

The company has been a boon for downtown Detroit, with the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings, and Fox Theatre.

Illich is asking the state to allow the release of $13 million in taxes from the city’s Downtown Development Authority to help fund his project.

State lawmakers were debating the issue this week.

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. The east-side Detroit resident explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of a city often misunderstood.    

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at sneavling@gmail.com

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Math quiz! How many Hot-N-Ready pizzas will Mr. Illitch have to sell in order to make the state legislature forget about his tax obligations to the city and give him the tax cuts he wants to build a new stadium, you know, to revitalize the city he loves? he probably is holding out on paying the bill because he wants to use as much leverage as he can get to get what he wants in terms of building a new stadium. It’s reprehensible that he’s not paying his tax bill, but it’s how he does business. Remember how he snookered the city into paying the upkeep on Tiger Stadium after he got the tax breaks and incentives to build Comerica Park? Or the hardball he played getting properties like the old YMCA razed? Everything old is new again as he prepares to build a new hockey stadium. Let the games begin.