Wayne State business school benefactor Mike Ilitch dies at 87

Mike Ilitch, a self-made billionaire whose influence in Detroit touched everything from downtown development to pro sports, casinos to concerts, restaurants to food distributors, died today. He was 87. Ilitch, the son of immigrants, turned a single pizzeria into a $3.4 billion business, invested in downtown Detroit long before anyone else, and turned the Tigers and Red Wings into perennial contenders. His name eventually became synonymous with Detroit.

The pizzeria in Garden City grew to 2,500 stores in four continents, making Little Caesars one of the three biggest pizza chains in the world. Starting with $10,000 in savings, Ilitch and his wife Marian eventually became worth $5.4 billion, according to Forbes. They were No. 88 on the magazine’s list of 400 richest Americans in 2015.

At a time few businesses would come to Detroit, Ilitch resurrected a dying inner-city neighborhood by moving his corporate offices there in 1988, renovating the historic Fox Theatre, building Comerica Park across the street and, next year, will add Little Caesars Arena.

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