Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Ilitch, Michael and Marian

Michael and Marian Ilitch founded Little Caesars Pizza, and the family has been longtime owners of several sports and entertainment franchises in Detroit. Mike was born on July 20, 1929 to Macedonian immigrant parents. After graduating from Cooley High School, Ilitch joined the Marines, and following his service played minor league baseball until an injury ended that career in 1955. Marian Bayoff was born on January 7, 1933, also to Macedonian immigrant parents. The two met on a blind date in 1954, and went on to marry and have seven children. In 1959, the Ilitches 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 in all 50 states and several countries. In 1982 the Ilitches purchased the Detroit Red Wings hockey club and implemented changes that revived the struggling team. For his contributions to the sport, Mike 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 – a grand movie palace which the Ilitches restored in the 1980s – Comerica Park, and Little Caesars Arena. Marian invested in, and eventually became the sole owner of MotorCity Casino and Hotel. The Ilitches also involved themselves in several philanthropic efforts and played a large role in the redevelopment of Detroit’s downtown core. Mike Ilitch passed away on February 10, 2017.  



Little Caesar's Pizza Treat brochure, c.1968

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

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