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Mike Fezzey, bank exec, WJR leader, dies

Brian J. O'Connor
Detroit News Finance Editor

Tributes continued to pour out Saturday as news spread of the sudden death of Mike Fezzey, the radio executive who swapped 30 years of experience at WJR 760 AM radio to become head of Huntington Bank's Southeast Michigan operations in Troy. Fezzey, 58, died Friday night in Florida, according to the bank and friends, while traveling on business.

Remembrances of Fezzey's contributions to Metro Detroit and many Michigan institutions included praise from Sen. Debbie Dingell (D-Detroit) and Gov Rick Snyder.

"Mike Fezzey's passing is a profound loss not just for our business community, but for our state as a whole," Snyder said in a statement. "when Southeast Michigan was struck by historic flooding last year, Mike and Huntington were there, stepping up to help devastated families rebuild. Outside of work, Mike was active in a number of charities and programs dedicated to helping children and families. He cared."

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon added, "Mike was much more than an MSU business partner; he was a good friend to the university. But he also will long be remembered for his friendship, generosity and kindness seen in his many charity and non-profit activities."

Locally, Metro Detroiters who worked with Fezzey on the many projects and community boards also mourned his passing, including Doug Graham, a Detroit venture capitalist who met Fezzey through Leadership Detroit XV.

"We became fast friends and both shared the same passion for rebuilding Detroit," Graham recalled. "I was at Detroit Renaissance at the time and Mike was very instrumental in getting WJR behind the private sector work for the federal empowerment zone, for which Detroit ultimately won approval, the building of the new stadiums and in particular the support of small business growth."

Fezzey was president and general manager of the powerhouse AM station when he abruptly switched careers into banking in 2011. Huntington valued Fezzey's deep ties to the business and philanthropical communities in Metro Detroit.

"He took this same passion to Huntington Bank where he was a champion of small business development and growth," Graham said. "He viewed Huntington bank as being pivotal in the revitalization of not only Detroit but the Southeast Michigan region."

Besides leading WJR, Fezzey also launched and ran Radio Disney Detroit programming for ABC. While at WJR, he earned the Peabody Award from the University of Georgia, the Neal Shine award for philanthropy in journalism and was honored, along with his wife, Suzy, with the 2010 John Dingel Heroes for Babies award.

In 2006 Mike was appointed to the Mentor Michigan Leadership Council by former Governor Granholm, and also earned an honorary doctorate from Central Michigan University.

Fezzey served on a number of boards including, Cornerstone Schools, New Detroit, the Children's Center, Habitat for Humanity, The Detroit Economic Club, the Parade Company, For the Kids Foundation, Sweet Dreamzzz Detroit and Forgotten Harvest. He had also been chairman of the marketing committee of the Detroit Regional Chamber, and president of the Detroit Advertising Association.

"Mike was the businessperson who doesn't exist in real life often enough," said Matt Friedman, a veteran Detroit broadcaster whose Tanner Friedman public relations agency represented Huntington at times. "He was driven by values and put people first. Mike really believed that what's good for the community is good for business. He motivated many of us to get involved and serve by figuring out ways to say, 'Yes.' "

In addition to his wife, Fezzey is survived by three adult children.

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

boconnor@detroitnews.com