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Michael "Mike" Ilitch Sr. (born July 20, 1929 in Detroit, Michigan),[1][2][3] is an entrepreneur and owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers. In addition to his sports ownerships, he is the founder and owner of Little Caesars Pizza since 1959, which has become an international fast food franchise. He has been at the center of Detroit's downtown redevelopment efforts when he purchased and renovated the Fox Theatre, and relocated his headquarters into its offices. He is a first generation American of Macedonian descent.[4] He is married to Marian Bayoff Ilitch.

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Family business concept

A graduate of Cooley High School, Mike Ilitch entered the U.S. Marine Corps for 4 years.[5] After his return home to Detroit, the Detroit Tigers offered him $5000 if he would sign to play baseball, and Ilitch had a three year minor league career before he was forced out of his playing career due to a knee injury.[6] After leaving baseball, Ilitch started a pizza business. With the help of his wife, Marian, the Ilitches opened Little Caesars Pizza Treat in Garden City, Michigan, the first of what would become many thousands of restaurants through franchising.

Today, the family's entities remain privately held. In 1999, the Ilitches established Ilitch Holdings, Inc. to provide their various enterprises with professional and technical services. They hold the titles of Chairman and Vice Chairwoman, respectively. The combined total revenues for these enterprises in 2007 reportedly exceeded $1.8 billion. Mike Ilitch had fallen off Forbes Magazine's annual list of the "400 Richest Americans," but in 2006 he returned to the list at #242.[7]

Marian Ilitch reportedly divested herself of any personal interest in the Detroit Tigers organization in 1998 to pursue interests in Detroit's emerging casino gambling industry. She acquired a significant interest in the Motor City Casino and, in 2005, purchased sole controlling interest. She independently pursues other gambling interests doing business as Gateway Casino Resorts, LLC and Barwest, LLC among others names.

The pair have seven children. They appointed two of their children co-presidents of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. in 2000: son Christopher Ilitch and daughter Denise Ilitch, an attorney. Christopher Ilitch was named to the new post of CEO and president. Denise Ilitch left the privately held company "to pursue other opportunities." [1]

Sports ownership

Ilitch is an avid sports fan, and in 1982, he and Marian purchased the struggling Detroit Red Wings professional hockey franchise and turned that team into a Stanley Cup champion. At the time of the purchase, the team was known as the “Dead Wings” and interest in hockey in Detroit was at an all-time low. Since, it has won eight divisional championships, four President’s Trophies (for the season best record among all NHL teams), five Campbell Bowls and four Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.

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Detroit Red Wings

In 1982, Mike Ilitch bought the Red Wings from Bruce Norris for $8 million USD, and eventually turned the team into a contender for the Stanley Cup. After using his bank account to buy the required players (in the pre-NHL-Salary-Cap era) to make the Red Wings an elite NHL team, the Red Wings won back-to-back championships in 1997 and 1998, fifteen years after Ilitch purchased the Red Wings. The Detroit Red Wings' championships would include two other victories in 2002 & 2008. Prior to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, Forbes Magazine ranked the Red Wings as the fifth most valuable franchise in the NHL despite a $16 million operating loss. For the 2007-2008 hockey season, the team won the President's Trophy for the best record in the NHL for the sixth time - the most of any NHL team (only because the President's Trophy was introduced in 1985-1986. The Red Wings also made the playoffs for 18 consecutive seasons and won the Stanley Cup. So far, Detroit's 17 consecutive playoff appearances ranks third in league history after 25 consecutive trips by the St. Louis Blues (1980–2004) and the Boston Bruins' streak of 29 consecutive appearances (1968–1996).[8]

Detroit Tigers

Ilitch purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1992 (from fellow pizza magnate Tom Monaghan who founded Domino's Pizza), for baseball was a sport that he had played as a youth. Under his ownership, the Tigers logged losing records in twelve out of thirteen seasons before their turnaround in 2006. That year, the Tigers made the playoffs for the first time in 19 years under Manager Jim Leyland and General Manager Dave Dombrowski. Since Dombrowski was brought in, Ilitch has steadily agreed to finance a larger payroll, with the Tigers beginning the 2008 season as one of the most expensive teams in baseball. Ilitch moved the struggling team from Tiger Stadium into newly-built Comerica Park. He financed approximately 50% of the $350 million facility and the taxpayers of the greater Detroit-Wayne County and federal grants covered the balance. Various Ilitch Holdings, Inc. enterprises manage and operate Comerica Park and its concessions. In 2005, the Detroit Tigers hosted MLB's 76th All-Star Game at Comerica Park. All-Star Week in Detroit produced the highest grossing revenue in the history of the All-Star Game.

Hockey Hall of Fame

Ilitch was inducted into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 as well as the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004.

In Stanley Cup history, only 12 women have had their names engraved on the trophy including Ilitch's wife, Marian and their three daughters.

Philanthropy

One of Ilitch's first philanthropic efforts was the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, established in 1985. The traveling restaurant was formed to feed the hungry and assist with food provisions during national disasters – most recently helping the flood victims and volunteers in North Dakota. The program has been recognized by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and has served more than 2 million individuals in the United States and Canada.

In 2006, inspired by a veteran returning to civilian life after losing both of his legs in war, Ilitch founded the Little Caesars Veterans Program to provide honorably discharged veterans with a business opportunity when they transition from service or seek a career change. Ilitch received the Secretary’s Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs for this program in 2007; it is the highest honor given to a civilian by the department. Today there are 50 Little Caesars Veteran franchisees who have applied more than $1.5 million in benefits.

The Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program, established by Ilitch in 1968, has provided opportunities for tens of thousands of youngsters over the years. Not only has it paved the way for a number of extremely talented players to make it to the NHL, it has helped develop character on and off the ice for those who have participated in the program.

Additionally, Ilitch Charities for Children was founded in 2000 as a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children in the areas of health, education and recreation. In 2008, the charity was renamed Ilitch Charities and its focus was broadened. The new charity invests in the community’s future by supporting innovative, collaborative and measurable programs that promote economic development and spur job growth, as a means to address social issues such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger.

Ilitch family

Mike and Marian Ilitch have seven children: son Christopher Ilitch (born June 1965) is CEO and President of Ilitch Holdings, Inc.; daughter Denise Ilitch (born November 1955) is an attorney. Other children are Ron (born June 1957); Michael, Jr.; Lisa Ilitch Murray; Atanas; and Carole Ilitch Trepeck. Each of the 7 children has his or her name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008 since they all own shares in the Detroit Red Wings.

The family was presented the key to the City of Detroit by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on February 14, 2008.[9] They are the fifth recipients of this award in the history of the city, the others being actor James Earl Jones, neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein[10] and Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis.[11]

See also

References

External links


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