Finley: Recovering Gilbert 'not involved in company'

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News
Quicken Loans founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert.

Dan Gilbert is getting regular updates from the PGA tournament he brought to Detroit while recovering in an in-patient facility from the severe stroke he suffered over Memorial Day weekend.

“He knows what’s going on,” Bill Emerson, vice chairman of Gilbert’s Quicken Loans Inc. and Rock Holdings, said in an interview at the Detroit Golf Club, where the Rocket Mortgage Classic is in full swing this week. “He’s received video from people and well-wishes and that kind of stuff.”

Emerson said he saw Gilbert, reportedly recovering in a top Chicago rehabilitation center, about 10 days ago. He described the 57-year-old Gilbert as lucid, upbeat, and fully communicative.

“His speech when I talked to him was clear,” Emerson said. “He’s fatigued because of the situation that he’s in. He’s dealing with getting his stamina back, and his energy back, and the physical aspects of the stroke.

“Given what’s happened, he’s in good shape. We were laughing and talking. He’s obviously working on a lot of the physical stuff. But the Dan Gilbert that we all know, the wit, the humor, the sarcasm, is still there. When I was talking to him he was actually quoting baseball stats from 1970.”

While executives from the billionaire's vast empire are speaking with Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans and its family of companies, he is not involved in running the company during this period.

“Dan is focused on recovering,” Emerson said. “That’s what he’s doing on a full-time basis. He’s not involved in the company and he doesn’t need to be. The way the structure of this organization was set up, I’m the vice chair of Rock Holdings and Quicken Loans and CEO of Bedrock. Jay Farner is the CEO of Rock Holdings and Quicken Loans. Those entities make up a good chunk of the things that are happening in the family of companies.

“All of the 50 or 60 companies have CEOs that are running them. Maybe people think that Dan has been involved in these businesses day-to-day. That’s simply not the case. There’s too much going on for him to be able to do that.”

Dan Gilbert

When major decisions must be made, such as raising capital or making large expenditures, Emerson, Farner and Matt Rizik, the company’s chief tax officer and manager of Gilbert’s family office, make them. 

The Cleveland Cavaliers professional basketball team has its own structure, but Farner and Emerson keep track of what’s going on there as well, Emerson said: “Every decision can be made that needs to be made.”

That includes property acquisitions and the direction of work on Gilbert’s vast property holdings in downtown Detroit. Emerson insists nothing is stalled because of Gilbert’s five-week absence, citing an executive team that has been with the company an average of 20 years each. And most of them are personal friends of Gilbert’s.

“It’s hard to understand the impact culture has on an organization until you get into a situation like this,” Emerson said. “The mission is clear, the philosophy is clear, the things that we have to execute on as a business is clear.

"That’s why we’re able to continue to run as we always have. Quicken Loans is going to have its best quarter in history. All of that is going on while Dan is focused on his recovery.”

Bedrock CEO Bill Emerson speaks to a crowd as they celebrate the completion of The Flats,  designed for residents age 55 and over earning 30-60 percent of the Area Median Income.

Emerson isn’t sure how long that recovery will take. Nor whether Gilbert will resume his old routine once he does recover. 

“He will be back when he’s ready,” he said. “And I think he will have his options at that point of whether he comes back as full-fledged and hard-driving as he was or whether he decides to do some different things. 

“But that’s going to be his choice. He’s always had that choice. He’s just one of those people who loves to be in the game.”

The game that Gilbert brought to Detroit — the first PGA Tour event in the city’s history at one of its most iconic courses — continues in his absence.

“This was something that was important to him," Emerson said, "and we’re going to keep him in the loop on what’s happening."