Mike Ilitch, the 87-year-old billionaire who owns the Red Wings, Tigers and Little Caesars, died today at a local hospital.
“My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family,” said Christopher Ilitch, President and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends. Together my family and the company celebrate the tremendous man he was, and we will continue to work hard to uphold his remarkable legacy. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with him to nurture and grow our businesses, but mostly, I’m grateful to have called him my Dad.”
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Ilitch had been extremely ill and unable to attend local events over the past year. Jeff Moss, the reporter behind DetroitSportsRag.com, broke news in March 2014 that Ilitch had colon cancer.
Mayor Mike Duggan praised Ilitch’s commitment to the city and his family.
“Mike Ilitch was more than just a shrewd, successful businessman,” Mayor Duggan said. “He was a Detroiter through-and-through. Whether he was making pizza, building successful sports and entertainment franchises or supporting youth organizations in our city, ‘Mr. I’ helped to bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to our city and attract millions of dollars in investment.”
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Ilitch leaves behind his wife of 61 years, Marian Ilitch, and seven adult children.
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The son of Macedonian immigrants, Ilitch was born in Detroit and later turned his mom-and-pop pizza shop into the largest carryout pizza chain – Little Caesars.
The family also owns the Motor City Casino, the Fox Theatre and many abandoned properties in the city, including a downtown theater, industrial buildings and apartments.
Ilitch Holdings Inc. is now led by Ilitch’s son, Christopher.
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.