Detroit entrepreneurs Mike and Marian Ilitch gift $40 million plus use of land to Wayne State University to build new business school in Detroit

Wayne State University is receiving a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch to build a new, state-of-the-art business school facility in Detroit. The gift is the largest in the history of the university and ranks as one of the top ten gifts ever to name a public business school in the United States.

In recognition of the Ilitches’ generosity, the school will be named the Mike Ilitch School of Business. The new building will be located on the southwest corner of Woodward Avenue and Temple Street, extending the footprint of Wayne State’s campus south into The District Detroit.

“Marian and I have experienced in our own lives how entrepreneurship creates opportunity, builds community and drives philanthropy,” said Mike Ilitch. “We’re thrilled to work with Wayne State to bring those same values to the next generation of Detroit entrepreneurs in a new state-of-the art business school.”

“Business education at Wayne State will be transformed through the generosity of Mike and Marian Ilitch,” said Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson. “Students will have unmatched access to the companies and industries evolving in Detroit, along with internships, networking and employment opportunities, all while contributing to the city’s renewal.”

The school, which will serve more than 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students, will provide new flexible teaching, research, office and community spaces for students and faculty bringing WSU’s outstanding business programs closer to the market. To date, the Wayne State University School of Business has more than 31,000 alumni, many of whom are top-level executives in metro Detroit and across the globe for brands like Carhartt, Aetna, Cadillac and Lear.

“Wayne State University is a cornerstone institution in Detroit’s past, present and future, and this gift is one of my parents’ most substantial demonstrations yet of their love for their hometown and its people,” said Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc. “The new Mike Ilitch School of Business will offer a high-profile location, an iconic building and unique programs that will help shape the leaders who will continue to move this community forward.”

The Mike Ilitch School of Business will boast a competitive entrepreneurship track with coursework in areas including sports and entertainment management. Major structural elements of the building will include:

  • Open collaboration space

  • Student support facilities

  • Conference learning center

  • Classrooms

  • Lab space

  • Faculty offices

“Our new home in the heart of The District Detroit will provide an educational anchor institution that can merge programs and students with the dynamic economic growth currently underway,” said Robert Forsythe, dean of the business school. “We are grateful for this lead gift and investment by Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch and the tremendous impact it will have on the educational experience of our students, as well as opportunities for our faculty to engage with the southeast Michigan business community.”

The Ilitches’ gift is part of Wayne State’s $750 million Pivotal Moments fundraising campaign. It is a lead gift toward the construction of the new business school and the University will seek additional support from successful Mike Ilitch School of Business alumni and friends to complete the new facility as part of the Pivotal Moments campaign.

Upon expected approval by the Wayne State Board of Governors today, this gift of $40 million will include $35 million plus use of the land dedicated to the construction of the new facility and a $5 million endowment upon completion of construction. The new facility is expected to open in 2018.

In 2014, the Ilitches donated $8.5 million to the Wayne State University Department of Surgery to aid surgical innovation at the medical school, including research on the pathophysiology of concussions related to sports injuries and the development of a robotic finger to be used in minimally invasive surgical procedures. Including this gift, Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as the Ilitch companies and foundations, will have given nearly $75 million to Detroit-based nonprofits since 2005. 

About Michael and Marian Ilitch
Michael and Marian Ilitch are prominent entrepreneurs and philanthropists in southeast Michigan. The couple shares a commitment to developing and revitalizing the city of Detroit through high-profile investment projects and support for Detroit-based initiatives and organizations.

The Ilitches founded Little Caesars in 1959, and grew the company from a single storefront into the world’s largest carryout pizza chain. This venture laid the groundwork for the development and acquisition of numerous other businesses and sports teams. Ilitch companies include Little Caesars, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program and Olympia Development and Ilitch Holdings. The companies collectively employ over 21,000 people and have a total combined annual revenue of $3.3 billion.

Ilitch companies make contributions of time, money and resources to the community through Ilitch Charities, the Detroit Red Wings Foundation, the Detroit Tigers Foundation, Little Caesars Love Kitchen and the Little Caesars Veterans Program.

Milestones over 48 years of investing in the city include: Little Caesars opening its first restaurant inside the City of Detroit in 1967; purchasing the Detroit Red Wings in 1982 and turning the then-struggling franchise into four-time Stanley Cup champions and one of the most respected franchises in professional sports; purchasing and restoring the historic Fox Theatre and adjacent Fox Office Center in 1987; purchasing the abandoned Hughes and Hatcher clothing store in 1987 and renovating it into what is now the Hockeytown Café and City Theatre; moving their Little Caesars world headquarters from the suburbs to downtown Detroit in 1989 during a time when most businesses were leaving the city; purchasing the Detroit Tigers in 1992 and providing the majority of funding to build Comerica Park in 2000; and opening MotorCity Casino in 1999 followed by expansion to include the MotorCity Casino Hotel in 2007.

Today, the organization is developing dozens of currently underutilized blocks into an exciting, walkable and livable sports and entertainment district. The District Detroit  will be anchored by a state-of-the-art arena that will serve not only as the new home of the Detroit Red Wings, but also as a platform for other sporting, entertainment and community events year-round.

With the completion of The District Detroit, the Ilitches investment in downtown will reach approximately $2 billion in brick-and-mortar projects. Ilitch companies currently employ over 7,500 colleagues in the city of Detroit, and annually attract more than 10 million visitors to their downtown venues. 

The couple’s unfailing love for Detroit has garnered them significant recognition for their generosity and vision for the city. The Ilitches have received numerous honors, including the key to the city of Detroit, presented to the family in 2008, as well as the National Preservation Award for the restoration of the Fox Theatre, a National Historic Landmark.

About Olympia Development of Michigan
Olympia Development of Michigan is a Detroit-based full-service real estate company owned by Detroit entrepreneurs Michael and Marian Ilitch. The company is responsible for developing and investing in some of Detroit’s most recognized and visited venues, including the nationally acclaimed Comerica Park. Other Ilitch companies in the food, sports and entertainment industries include: Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, Champion Foods and Ilitch Holdings.  Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers. Marian Ilitch owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

About Wayne State University
Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 380 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to more than 27,000 students. For more information about the Mike Ilitch School of Business, visit

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