|Born||) July 20, 1929
|Occupation||entrepreneur, owner of Detroit Tigers & Detroit Red Wings, founder of Little Caesars Pizza|
|Net worth|| US $ 2.7 billion
Michael "Mike" Ilitch Sr. (born July 20, 1929) is an American entrepreneur, founder and owner of the international fast food franchise Little Caesars Pizza. He owns the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League and Detroit Tigers of Major League Baseball.
Ilitch has been at the center of Detroit's downtown redevelopment efforts; he purchased and renovated the Fox Theatre and relocated his business headquarters there. A first generation American of Macedonian descent, he is married to Marian Bayoff Ilitch.
A graduate of Cooley High School in Detroit, Michigan, Mike Ilitch entered the U.S. Marine Corps for four years. After his return home to Detroit, the Detroit Tigers offered him $3000 if he would sign to play baseball, and Ilitch had a four-year minor league career from 1952-1955. Ilitch played mostly second base for the Tigers', New York Yankees', and Washington Senators' organizations in the Pennsylvania-Ontario-New York League, Cotton States League, and Florida International League. He was forced out of his playing career due to a knee injury. After leaving baseball, Ilitch started a pizza business in 1959. 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.
As of 2012, 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. As of 2010 he rose to #238 with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion.
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 other 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".
The Detroit Caesars were a professional softball team that began play in the American Professional Slow Pitch Softball League (APSPL) in 1977, the first of three professional softball leagues. Prior to formalized professional play, Detroit was a hotbed for softball, with some of the best players in the country playing in the most competitive amateur leagues to be found in the US. A major sponsor of softball in the Detroit area was Little Caesar's, and with the formation of a professional league, Ilitch formed a team in his first step into professional sports ownership.
The Caesars played at Memorial Field in East Detroit, a small suburb of Detroit that had recently played host to a national softball tournament. With clever promotions tied in with the pizza chain and the signing of former Detroit Tiger stars Jim Northrup and Norm Cash, fans packed into the small stands by the thousands to witness not only Detroit's best softball players, but those that Ilitch had brought to town to make his team into the powerhouse of professional softball. Mike Nye, Ronnie Ford, Bert Smith, Tex Collins and many other softball legends took to the field for Detroit, led by manager Gary Vitto, earning the team two World Series titles before disbanding after the 1979 season.
Detroit Red Wings
Ilitch is an avid sports fan, and in 1982, he and Marian purchased the struggling Detroit Red Wings professional hockey franchise and turned the 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 then, it has won fifteen divisional championships, six President’s Trophies (for the season best record among all NHL teams), six Campbell Bowls and four Stanley Cups in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008.
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 years of drafting top picks and grooming their young players, and with proper management and leadership, The Red Wings would become an elite NHL team. They 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 (because the President's Trophy was introduced in 1985-1986). The Red Wings also made the playoffs for 22 consecutive seasons and won the Stanley Cup. So far, Detroit's 22 consecutive playoff appearances ranks tied for fifth in league history after 29 consecutive trips by the Boston Bruins from 1967–1968 to 1995–1996, 28 consecutive trips by the Chicago Blackhawks from 1969–1970 through 1996–1997, 25 consecutive appearances by the St. Louis Blues from 1979–1980 to 2003–2004, 24 and 21 consecutive berths by the Montreal Canadiens from 1970–1971 to 1993–1994 and 1948–1949 through 1968–1969 respectively as well as tied with their own streak of 22 seasons from 1938–1939 to 1957–1958.
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. The Tigers eventually lost to the St.Louis Cardinals in the World Series in 5 games. 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. On September 16, 2011, the Detroit Tigers won the Central Division title. On January 24, 2012, Ilitch signed Prince Fielder to a 9 year, $214 million contract, the 4th largest contract in baseball history. The 2012 Tigers would go on to make the World Series. After making it to the final series, the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants.
Ilitch moved the struggling team from Tiger Stadium into newly-built Comerica Park. He financed approximately 60% 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. Forbes Magazine ranked the Tigers #22 out of 30 teams on its 2005 list of most valuable teams.
Ilitch was one of the early team owners in the Arena Football League, starting up the Detroit Drive in 1988, somewhat as a filler team for summer dates in the Joe Louis Arena, although Little Caesars was also one of the major sponsors of the AFL during the time Ilitch owned the Drive. The Drive were one of the most successful teams in the early days of the AFL, both on and off the field. They generally had strong attendance (although much of that was due to discounted or giveaway tickets), and the Drive were in the ArenaBowl in every year of their six-year existence, going 4-2 in the title games. After Ilitch bought the Tigers in 1992 though, he decided he didn't want to own another franchise that would take away fans from the Tigers, so he sold the team off and they moved to Worcester, Massachusetts.
Hockey Hall of Fame
In Stanley Cup history, only 12 women have had their names engraved on the trophy including Ilitch's wife, Marian and their three daughters.
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.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, reports required by the Federal Election Commission from 2002-2005 indicate Ilitch Holdings, Inc. members and business partners have contributed more than $500,000 to political campaigns and PACs.
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. They are the fifth recipients of this award in the history of the city, the others being actor James Earl Jones, neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis.
- Forbes: The World's Billionares - Michael & Marian Ilitch & family March 2013
- Drew Sharp Thrilled by Wings, Mike Ilitch hopes to help pennant push next Detroit Free press, 2009
- Biographical sketch of Mike Ilitch Associated Press Archive, December 18, 2005
- Mike Ilitch U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame
- The Ilitch Family littlecaesars.com
- Ilitch Companies
- "On one One with Mike Ilitch". LegendsofHockey.net. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- Puls, Mark (September 27, 1999). "Ilitch is ‘choked up’ about leaving, but ‘looking forward’ to Comerica Park". The Detroit News. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- "#242 Michael Ilitch – Forbes.com". Forbes.
- Ilitch Son To Take Over Reins Of Family Business
- newsmeat.com > Ilitch's federal campaign contribution search result
- Judge salutes Horton for making difference by embracing talent – Freep.com – Detroit Free Press
- Sue Chan Guess Who Got The Key To Detroit? Saddam Hussein Made Big Donations To Detroit Church CBS News March 26, 2003
- Leland Stein Mike Ilitch: professional sports' best owner 12/10/2008