Little Caesar’s Founder, Red Wings, Tigers Owner Mike Ilitch Dies at 87
A giant in Michigan business and sports, Mike Illitch, died Friday evening. Ilitch was 87.Ilitch and his wife of 61 years, Marian, opened their first Little Caesar's Pizza Restaurant in 1959. Over they years, they built Little Caesar's into a multi-billion dollar empire. According to the Detroit Free-Press, the Ilitches are No. 88 on Forbes list of wealthiest Americans.
While Ilitch made his fortune in pizza, he put a lot of money into revitalizing downtown Detroit. Along with the sports teams, he owned the Fox Theatre, He invested heavily to bring downtown Detroit to it's long gone heyday.
But the sports teams were the highest profile of the Ilitch holdings. A million dollar investment in the Red Wing in the early 1980's eventually led to four Stanley Cups and what is know simply as "Hockeytown".
Surprisingly, baseball was probably Ilitch's true sports love. He grew up in Detroit, and played shortstop at Cooley High School.
Ilitch never thought the Tigers would be for sale, but a competitor in the pizza business, Tom Monaghan of Domino's sold the team to Ilitch for $82 million in 1992. The growth was slow, but eventually the Tigers would win two American League pennants. The Tigers are now valued at over a Billion dollars.
But it wasn't about money with the Tigers. There are many stories of employees wanting to win a World Series title for "Mr. I."
Services for Ilitch will be private, but a public memorial is being planned.