Mike Ilitch

Mike Ilitch
Michael Ilitch
Born Michael Ilievski
July 20, 1929 (1929-07-20) (age 82)
Detroit, Michigan
Residence Detroit, Michigan
Citizenship United States
Occupation entrepreneur, owner of Detroit Tigers & Detroit Red Wings, founder of Little Caesars Pizza
Net worth increase US $ 1.7 billion (est.)
(March 2011)[1]
Spouse Marian Ilitch
Children seven

Michael "Mike" Ilitch Sr. (born Michael Ilievski, July 20, 1929)[2][3][4] 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.[5] He is married to Marian Bayoff Ilitch.


Family business concept

A graduate of Cooley High School, Mike Ilitch entered the U.S. Marine Corps for four years.[6] After his return home to Detroit, the Detroit Tigers offered him $3000 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.[7] 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. As of 2010 he rose to #238 with an estimated net worth of $1.7 billion.[8]

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".[9]

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 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.

Detroit Caesars

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 four former Detroit Tiger stars, Jim Northrup, Norm Cash, Mickey Stanley and Jim Price, 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

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 20 consecutive seasons and won the Stanley Cup. So far, Detroit's 20 consecutive playoff appearances ranks tied for fifth in league history after 29 consecutive trips by the Boston Bruins from 1967-68 to 1995-96, 28 consecutive trips by the Chicago Blackhawks from 1969-70 through 1996-97, 25 consecutive appearances by the St. Louis Blues from 1979-80 to 2003-04, 24 and 21 consecutive berths by the Montreal Canadiens from 1970-71 to 1993-94 and 1948-49 through 1968-69 respectively as well as tied with their own streak of 20 seasons from 1938-39 to 1957-58.[10]

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. On September 16, 2011, the Detroit Tigers won the Central Division title.

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. The Tigers franchise is highly leveraged, with only two other teams carrying higher debt to value ratios on their ledgers.[11]

Detroit Drive

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.

Detroit Pistons

On August 5, 2010, Ilitch formally expressed interest in purchasing the Detroit Pistons; however, Ilitch walked away from a proposed sale over price after examining the team's books.

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.


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 Elections Commission from 2002-2005 indicate Ilitch Holdings, Inc. members and business partners have contributed more than $500,000 to political campaigns and PACs.[12]

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.[13] 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[14] and Pittsburgh Steeler Jerome Bettis.[15]

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Michael Ilitch — Michael Mike Ilitch (* 20. Juli 1929 in Detroit, Michigan) ist ein US amerikanischer Unternehmer und Besitzer mehrerer Sportmannschaften. Inhaltsverzeichnis 1 Unternehmer 2 Sportteam Besitzer 2.1 Detroit Red Wings …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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