Ilitch family makes biggest Detroit investment

Paul W. Smith

“Outta’ My Mind on a Saturday Moanin’”

Christopher Ilitch, president and chief executive officer of Ilitch Holdings Inc., was kind enough to visit with my WJR listeners Thursday morning, just a few hours before he and his family (along with notables such as Gov. Rick Snyder, Mayor Mike Duggan and other public partners) would share their vision of, and celebrate the launch of, the Detroit sports and entertainment district.

As Christopher spoke of the hard work of his mom and dad, Marian and Mike Ilitch, from starting their first pizzeria in the ’50s, through buying the Detroit Red Wings in 1982, re-creating the Fox Theatre in 1987, acquiring the Detroit Tigers in 1992, building Comerica Park, and now this new Red Wings arena that is so much more than just another sports venue, I realized I was looking at and talking with an incredibly proud son who is happily running with the torch passed on to him by his trailblazing parents.

This is a son all of us would be proud call our own.

A very bright, kind and capable individual of high integrity and sense of purpose, with a true understanding of the obstacles and struggles his parents experienced and sacrifices they made along the way to achieve the very successful position they now hold as business builders, owners and longtime supporters of the city of Detroit (even through the times people were giving up and leaving).

They stayed.

By observation over the years, we have all seen how it (apparently) is not always easy being the child of very successful (and wealthy) parents.

Somehow Mike and Marian Ilitch raised a son who was born on third base, but never kidded himself into believing he hit a triple.

And they gave the city a hardworking son who is taking their business foundation to levels even they could never have dreamed of.

And as we now watch Christopher Ilitch slide into home, we realize he is right where he should be.

Paul W. Smith is host of “The Paul W. Smith Show” on WJR-AM (760) from 5:30-9 a.m. Monday-Friday.