Ilitch empire to stay in family for another generation

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News
Christopher Ilitch

Mike and Marian Ilitch, the husband and wife whose holdings includes the global Little Caesars pizza brand, the Red Wings and Tigers, MotorCity Casino Hotel and plenty of downtown Detroit property, announced a leadership succession plan Thursday.

All their business holdings will remain under family ownership and one of their sons, Christopher Ilitch, will eventually take on his parents' role in overseeing their entreperneurial empire — a role he’s been growing into for years now.

“I’m pleased to say that all of our businesses, including the sports teams, will remain 100 percent Ilitch-family owned,” said Mike Ilitch, chairman of Ilitch Holdings Inc., in a  statement released Thursday afternoon. Mike is 86 and Marian is 83.

“Given the public nature of our companies, the wide range of interested stakeholders, the large-scale projects we are working on, and the thousands of hard-working employees we rely on every day, we thought it was important to publicly disclose our plans,” Mike Ilitch said.

“We’ve worked a lifetime to build these businesses, and we’re pleased that they will all remain in our family,” said Marian Ilitch, vice chairwoman of Ilitch Holdings. “As our health is relatively good, we thought that disclosing our plans now would help provide continued stability.”

Mike and Marian will remain on the boards of their various companies, providing overall leadership and strategic guidance. Mike Ilitch will continue to run the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, and Marian Ilitch will continue to run MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, has run the day-to-day operations for several years and Thursday’s announcement formalized what has long been expected. He will succeed his parents in their current roles over time.

Christopher Ilitch was appointed president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc. in 2004. During the past 29 years he has worked in a variety of roles throughout Ilitch companies. In addition, he is involved in a number of business and civic groups that aim to help improve and promote Detroit and the region, including the board and executive committee for Business Leaders for Michigan and the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

“I am fortunate and privileged to work with my mother and father, two hard working, committed and passionate people who have done so much for our companies, our employees and our community,” Christopher Ilitch said in the written statement.

Ilitch Holdings Inc. was established in 1999 to provide companies owned by Michael and/or Marian Ilitch with professional services. The Ilitch companies represent leading brands in the food, sports and entertainment industries and include Little Caesars Pizza, the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program and Olympia Development. Mike Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers. Marian owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Christopher holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He and his wife, Kelle,  have three children and reside in Metro Detroit.

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