Mike Ilitch, Founder of Little Caesars, Dies At 87

DETROIT, Michigan - The owner of the Red Wings and Tigers has passed away. 

Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesars Pizza and the Chairman of Ilitch Holdings passed away Friday at a Detroit hospital. He was 87.

"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."

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ilitch served four year in the U.S. Marine Corps and spent four seasons in the Tigers minor league system. In 1959, he and his wife Marian opened the first Little Caesars in Garden City, Michigan. 

Ilitch purchased the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, turning the team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Under his ownership, the Red Wings won four Stanley Cup championships and have made the playoffs each season for the last 25 years. He purchased the Tigers in 1992. The team moved to Comerica Park in 2000 and made two trips to the World Series in 2006 and 2012.

Ilitch Charities and its affiliates, the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and the Detroit Tigers Foundation, have given more than $35 million in cash and in-kind contributions to deserving organizations across the community since 2005. Additionally, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch have personally gifted nearly $50 million to Detroit's Wayne State University, $40 million of which was dedicated to establish the new Mike Ilitch School of Business, which will train and educate the next generation of the city's great entrepreneurs.

Ilitch has received numerous business, cultural, and philanthropic awards, including: 

  • The International Franchise Association Hall of Fame (2016)
  • SportsBusiness Journal's "The Champions: Pioneers and Innovators in Sports Business (2014)
  • US Hockey Hall of Fame induction (2004)
  • Michigan Sports Hall of Fame induction (2004)
  • National Hockey League Hall of Fame (2003)
  • Ellis Island Medal of Honor (1997)

In his hometown of Detroit, Ilitch has been honored for his efforts in the community with the Joe Louis Brown Bomber Jacket Award, the Distinguished Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award, the Shining Light Regional Cooperation Award and the Edward H. McNamara Goodfellow of the Year Award.

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