Mike Ilitch, co-founder of the Little Caesars Pizza franchise and owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers, died Friday at the age 87, according to a family statement.
The self-made Detroit native, who founded Little Caesars in 1959 and whose family holdings now have a net worth of $6.1 billion, purchased the Red Wings in 1982 for $8 million. The Wings then went on to capture the Stanley Cup in 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2008. In 1992, Ilitch, who once dreamed of playing for the Tigers, purchased the MLB team from Domino's Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan for $85 million.
"My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family," Ilitch's son Christopher, president and CEO of the family's Ilitch Holdings Inc., said in a statement released by the company. "He made such a positive impact in the world of sports, in business and in the community, and we will remember him for his unwavering commitment to his employees, his passion for Detroit, his generosity to others and his devotion to his family and friends."
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Heartbroken hearing of Mr I's passing. He was a family man. A self made man. A giving man. An icon for our city and nation. #RIPMrIllitch— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) February 11, 2017
"I've never seen a man more dedicated to his community and to baseball than Mr. I," Tigers general manager Al Avila said in a statement. "What he has done for this franchise, and for Detroit, is immeasurable. He was always there to give us whatever we needed because he wanted greatness and happiness for all of us -- especially the fans. Mr. I was truly the great ones. He was a friend and an inspiration and he will be deeply missed."
RIP Mr I. Ive not been n ur organization long but I knew it was one I wanted to be a part of. We will rejoice in all u have done for Detroit— Daniel Norris (@DanielNorris18) February 11, 2017
Ilitch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Hockey giant Mike Ilitch has passed away. Our heartfelt condolences to his family. He will be dearly missed.— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 10, 2017
Saddened to hear of Mr. Ilitch passing. He was a remarkable human and a champion for the city of Detroit. I am honored to play for his team.— James McCann (@JamesMcCann34) February 10, 2017
Saddened to hear about the passing of Mr. I. He did wonders for Detroit & I am grateful to have played for a team he owned #RIPMrIllitch— Buck Farmer (@B_Farm09) February 11, 2017