Quicken Loans exec: In Gilbert's absence, 'we know what the mission is'
Mackinac Island — Quicken Loans Vice Chairman Bill Emerson assured business and political leaders Wednesday that company founder Dan Gilbert has “built an incredible team” who will lead the company while Gilbert recovers from a stroke.
“We know what the mission is,” Emerson said here at the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference. “We know what to do.”
The illness has raised concerns about Gilbert's family of businesses — which include mortgage lending, the Cleveland Cavaliers, casinos and Fathead. The sidelining of Gilbert 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 at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.
But Emerson said he visited the Detroit billionaire booster in the hospital Monday and said Gilbert was “awake” and “responsive.”
“We’re literally 72 hours from Dan having a stroke," said Emerson, who was promoted in 2017 to oversee the Detroit billionaire's portfolio of companies. "... I talked with him. He knew I was there. He knew what I was talking about.”
“He’s doing as well as he can be doing,” he added. “He is one tough human being, and he will come back as fast and as strong as anybody can in this particular situation.”
Anyone concerned about business continuing as usual should dismiss those concerns, Emerson said.
“He’s taking a break," the Quicken Loans vice chairman said, adding that “We have years of work to do."
Gilbert went to the hospital Saturday because he was feeling poorly and had a stroke while at the hospital Sunday morning, Quicken Loans officials have said.
The 57-year-old entrepreneur was scheduled to attend the Mackinac Policy Conference and speak Wednesday, but was replaced by Emerson, who spoke on a variety of issues including the recent passage of no-fault auto insurance reform.
Gilbert long advocated for changes that would make Michigan auto insurance more affordable. When lawmakers appeared to be at a stalemate on changes earlier this month, Gilbert filed paperwork for a 2020 ballot initiative on the issue.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the threat of a ballot initiative did not play a part in the reform’s eventual passage Friday. She and legislative leaders had started negotiations prior to Gilbert’s petition.
“The word about the petition came out after we’d already gotten to the table and we’d made a lot of ground on it,” Whitmer told The Detroit News in a Tuesday interview. “Every one of us agreed we weren’t going to let that distract us.”
Quicken Loans officials disagreed. The petition from Gilbert “put pressure on all sides to come to the negotiating table” and allowed legislators to be the “architect of the deal,” said Jared Fleisher, vice president of government affairs for Quicken Loans.
Likewise, Fleisher said, “If you were one of the interest groups that are making a lot of money on the status quo, you knew you were going to get a worse outcome at the ballot because people were really mad about this.”