Gilbert has stroke in hospital; Emerson replaces him at Mackinac business conference

The condition of Dan Gilbert remained unchanged as he recovers from stroke-like symptoms that led over the weekend to his hospitalization at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert had a stroke in the hospital Sunday and had an emergency procedure, company CEO Jay Farner said Monday.

Gilbert, the billionaire online mortgage lender and Detroit real estate developer, "suffered a stroke" Sunday and had a "catheter-based procedure" at Beaumont Hospital and was put in the Intensive Care Unit, Farner said in a statement.

The statement indicates Gilbert's health condition is more serious than initially indicated.

"Dan is awake, responsive and resting comfortably," Farner said. "Dan and his family are immensely grateful to the doctors and nurses whose early intervention is already paying dividends toward his recovery."

The revelation came as the Detroit Regional Chamber said Quicken Loans Vice Chairman Bill Emerson is replacing Gilbert at this week's Mackinac Policy Conference.

Gilbert's health issue isn't expected to affect the day-to-day operations of the Quicken Loans family of companies, a University of Michigan expert said. 

It was a point reinforced by Farner, who said, "Thanks to the strong culture and leadership Dan has built and grown, business at the Rock Family of Companies will continue under the normal, everyday direction of their respective CEOs." 

But the illness could affect high-profile projects such as the skyscraper scheduled to be built along Woodward Avenue on the old Hudson department store site, said Erik Gordon, an assistant professor in UM's Ross School of Business.

The 912-foot skyscraper is expected to become Michigan's tallest building, taller than the Renaissance Center.

The condition of Gilbert remained unchanged as he recovers from stroke-like symptoms that led over the weekend to his hospitalization at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.

“Dan and his family are in our thoughts, and we are wishing him a speedy recovery," Detroit Regional Chamber Sandy Baruah said in a Monday statement. "The chamber is grateful that Dan’s colleague, Bill Emerson, will be taking his place on stage at the conference.”

Gilbert's medical issue has stoked concerns over the day-to-day operations of his empire of companies — which include the Cleveland Cavaliers, three casinos and Fathead — as well as his real estate investments in Detroit.

But Gordon said Monday that Gilbert's group of companies will be in good shape because the billionaire has done a great job of hiring strong people to keep the businesses going in his absence.

Quicken Loans Vice Chairman Bill Emerson is replacing hospitalized company Chairman Dan Gilbert at this week's Mackinac Policy Conference.

"People at the operation level can keep the company going for a while,” said Gordon.

“They understand their role and his vision,” Gordon said. “He’s built a strong team. It’s not a one-man band.”

Gilbert, a 57-year-old Franklin resident, is founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, ranked as the nation's largest mortgage lender. Gilbert's Rock Family of Companies employs more than 30,000 people around the nation, including more than 17,000 in Detroit.

Part of Detroit's turnaround has been credited to Gilbert's investment in the city's central business district. He moved his employees from Livonia and other suburbs to a Detroit headquarters starting in 2010.

As Gilbert bought other companies or provided funding for startups, those firms filled the more than 100 buildings he bought and oftentimes renovated around the city in his bid to help transform Detroit into a "great American city." He also has envisioned turning the city into a magnet for technology companies and has succeeded in luring local offices for Google and Twitter. 

Gilbert's Bedrock real estate firm and its affiliate have invested and committed more than $5.6 billion in its efforts to help revitalize Detroit.

The billionaire is not the only person contributing to Detroit's renaissance through his real estate investments and developments, Gordon said. But “he is the symbol of the (city’s) switch from negativity to a turnaround in Detroit’s spirit."

Gilbert's illness also could affect the completion of the Wayne County jail land swap project, Gordon said.

Gilbert's Rock Ventures is receiving 15.5 acres of property where a half-built jail now stands on the edge of Greektown, and the billionaire has vowed to construct an unidentified $1 billion in mixed-use developments. In return, he is helping finance the construction of a new criminal justice complex on other land in the city. 

Such a large project could be slowed up by Gilbert's hospitalization, Gordon said.

But the mortgage lender has built a strong team and “avoided the trap of 'It's all me,'” he said.

“He’s not like Elon Musk," Gordon said. "Gilbert is less maniacal."

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Detroit News reporter Charles E. Ramirez contributed