Maple Leafs' Shanahan, Babcock saddened by passing of Red Wings owner Ilitch

Mike Ilitch, who built Little Caesars into a giant pizza empire, and who went on to buy the Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, died Friday, WDIV reports.

Chris Ilitch added: "My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family".

Ilitch, who bought the Tigers in 1992 and the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, saw plenty of success in the National Hockey League - winning four Stanley Cups. He and his wife, Marian, were listed by Forbes at No. 86 in its 2016 rankings of the richest people in America, with a net worth of $5.8 billion.

Unlike previous owners of Detroit sports franchises, Mr. Ilitch opened his checkbook to sign top players - finding solid success in hockey and mixed results in baseball. "He truly was one of a kind and he will be missed".

"A guy like myself", Ilitch said at Tiger Stadium after buying the team on August 26, 1992, "to be able to come back to the game, it just never gets out of your blood. At this moment of heartbreaking sorrow, we send deepest condolences to the entire Ilitch family and to all who were privileged to know him, play for him or work for him". They just show up every day and they grind and they make you grind. "It's been very costly, but I'm not going to change my ways". He acquired the Tigers from business rival Tom Monaghan, whose own Domino's Pizza got its start in Ypsilanti, Mich., a year later and less than 25 miles from Ilitch's first store. However, Ilitch eventually turned the Tigers into a contender in the American League, winning two American League pennants in 2006 and 2012.




"I've never seen a man more dedicated to this community and to baseball than Mr I", Tigers executive vice president and general manager Al Avila said.

Image courtesy Ilitch Holdings.

Without Ilitch's hunger to win and willingness to pour millions into the team, the idea of calling Detroit "Hockeytown" would have been laughable. He opened Little Caesar's for business in 1959, and it has since developed into an global pizza chain.

"It's a sporting event, and we need sporting events", Ilitch said at the time.

Ilitch is survived by his wife of more than 60 years, as well as seven adult children, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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