Billionaire businessman and Michigander Mike Illitch died at 87 this past week.
He owned the Detroit Red Wings. He owned the Detroit Tigers. He owned Detroit’s Fox Theatre. He founded Little Caesars in a suburb of Detroit. He helped build Comerica Park and the soon-to-be-unveiled Little Caesars Arena.
The man’s influence on the city of Detroit and its inhabitants during his life was unmatched.
He spent lavishly to help the Red Wings and Tigers rebound from periods of insignificance. Illitch brought the name “Hockeytown” to Detroit when the Wing’s won four Stanley Cups under his ownership. He also started and sustained their 25-season playoff streak dating back to 1990, as he purchased the team in 1982.
Meanwhile, the Tigers won two American League pennants and had the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years under Illitch’s oversight.
But in addition to helping struggling teams bounce back, Illitch has also helped the Motor City rebound from a recession that tanked the domestic automotive industry.
Illitch’s company poured billions of dollars into restoration projects and charities benefitting Detroit. His fingerprints are all over what’s been dubbed: “The Comeback City.”
Not only am I a southeast Michigan native, but I also come from a Hot-N-Ready family. Both of my parents worked all throughout my youth, so when the house breadwinners came home burned out from work, they oftentimes had a couple of $5 pizzas in hand from Little Caesars.
The death of Illitch is a devastating loss to Michiganders everywhere. Rest in peace, Mr. I.