Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ilitch, Michael

Michael Ilitch was the founder of Little Caesars Pizza, and longtime owner of several sports and entertainment franchises in Detroit. He was born on July 20, 1929 to Macedonian immigrant parents. After graduating from Cooley High School, Ilitch joined the Marines. He played on a military baseball team while stationed in Hawaii from 1948 to 1952. After leaving the Marines, Ilitch embarked on a career in baseball, entering into the Detroit Tigers farm system. He played for several minor league teams through 1955, ending in an injury. In 1959, Ilitch and his wife, Marian, opened Little Caesars Pizza Treat in Garden City, Michigan.

The first Little Caesars franchise location opened in 1962, which paved the way to thousands of restaurants found in all 50 states and several countries. In 1982 Ilitch purchased the Detroit Red Wings hockey team and implemented changes that revived the struggling team. For his efforts in the sport, Ilitch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003. In 1992, he purchased the Detroit Tigers from rival pizza mogul Tom Monaghan, founder of Domino’s Pizza.

The acquisition of the Red Wings was the beginning of what is today known as Olympia Entertainment which owns or manages a number of entertainment venues in the Detroit area, most notably the Fox Theater, Comerica Park, and Little Caesars Arena. The Ilitches also involved themselves in several philanthropic efforts and played a large role in the redevelopment of Detroit’s downtown core. Ilitch passed away on February 10, 2017. To honor him, the Red Wings and Tigers wore patches which said “Mr. I” on their uniforms during their 2017 seasons.



Book comemmorating the Red Wing's 1997 Stanley Cup - 1997.018.002

Detroit Tigers uniform patch, 1970s - 2014.017.002

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