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Reaction to Mike Ilitch’s death: ‘He wanted greatness and happiness for all of us’


By Danielle Salisbury

February 10, 2017

They called him a powerhouse, a giant, a visionary, and one of America’s greatest sports team owners.

Shortly after the Friday announcement Little Caesars Pizza founder and prominent Detroit investor Mike Ilitch had died, Michigan politicians, business leaders and sports figures started releasing statements of praise and condolence.

This is how they are remembering the self-made billionaire, entrepreneur and owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings:

Gov. Rick Snyder:

“Mike Ilitch stood as a powerhouse in so many ways across Michigan, and we are a better state today because of the positive differences he made in our communities. He was a strong businessman, an innovative leader, and a loving family man. He was passionate about the city of Detroit and served a critical role in the city’s comeback, investing time, effort, and resources to help craft a better vision for Detroit.

“Whether at Comerica Park, the Fox Theatre, or a Red Wings playoff game, Mike had a role in helping create some of our favorite memories, and he will always hold a special place in our hearts.

“Over the years, (my wife) Sue and I have become good friends with the Ilitch family, and we will miss Mike dearly. On behalf of the state of Michigan, we offer our heartfelt condolences to Mike’s wife, Marian, and his entire family. We ask you to keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.”

Detroit Tigers Executive Vice President and General Manager Al Avila:

“I’ve never seen a man more dedicated to this community and to baseball than Mr. I. 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 one of the great ones. He was a friend and an inspiration and he will be deeply missed.”

Detroit Red Wings Executive Vice President and General Manager Ken Holland:

“Mr. I stands as one of America’s greatest sports team owners. To have been able to work with him for more than 30 years and be a part of turning a struggling franchise into a champion again was an experience of a lifetime. His commitment to his team and our fans, is the reason we all feel a part of ‘Hockeytown.’ He will be deeply missed by those of us who were fortunate enough to know him and call him a friend.”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley:

“Mike Ilitch was a visionary who always believed in the City of Detroit and its potential. He continued to invest in Detroit and our sports teams when others were turning away. Mr. Ilitch’s leadership and passion were unmatched and he will always be remembered in the legacy of Detroit and our state.

“He will truly be missed and my condolences are with the Ilitch family during this difficult time.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn:

“Mike Ilitch was a giant for Detroit and Southeast Michigan who spent his life nurturing and giving back to the city and state he loved. His drive and vision – and passion for sports – helped contribute to the revival of downtown Detroit, helped make us the pizza capital of the world, and brought us four Stanley Cups and two trips to the World Series. Through it all, Mike never lost touch. He was a real guy, and as much as he loved Detroit, his true love was his wife Marian and their seven children. John and I were honored to call Mike a friend, and our prayers are with Marian and the family.”

President and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Rodrick Miller:

“Mike Illitch, a first generation American, exemplified the essence of Detroit. Through grit, tenacity, and savvy he built a global empire from a meager start in a single storefront. His life is an inspiration for any entrepreneur who chooses Detroit as a place to dream big and work hard. His investments in the city have been catalytic for our recovery, and his legacy will endure for generations to come.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Ilitch family and organization. Mike Ilitch was a brilliant businessman who turned a small family business into an empire, employing countless metro Detroiters, and rallying the community around his beloved Tigers and Red Wings.

Gerry Anderson, chairman and CEO of DTE Energy:

“He was a pioneering leader and believer in Detroit, and was among the first to reinvest in a city that so needed it. He touched the lives of so many over the course of his life, and truly played a key role in molding the City into the destination that it has become.

“We are deeply saddened, and know the Ilitch family will continue to carry on Mike’s vision. Our community has lost a great leader.”

Mike Ritchie, president of Comerica Bank-Michigan:

“Our deepest sympathy to the entire Ilitch family. Mike was a true visionary whose love of Detroit helped spark the city’s rebirth. One need only look around to see the incredible imprint he made on our city. More than that, he was a friend to many of us at Comerica and will truly be missed.”

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy K. Baruah:

“There are a handful of leaders whose faith in Detroit never wavered, even through our darkest hours. Mike Ilitch stands tall in this elite group. Mr. Ilitch, his family and his enterprises never stopped investing in Detroit and providing opportunity for its citizens. While Mike Ilitch was a one of kind leader who cannot be replaced, we are comforted that his family continues his legacy.”

Mayor Mike Duggan:

“Mike Ilitch was more than just a shrewd, successful businessman. He was a Detroiter through-and-through. Whether he was making pizza, building successful sports and entertainment franchises or supporting youth organizations in our city, “Mr. I” helped to bring thousands of jobs and opportunities to our city and attract millions of dollars of investment.

“More than all of this, he was a family man. I know how Mike Ilitch adored his family and how his family adores him. My heart goes out to Marian, their children and the entire Ilitch family at this difficult time.”

Son Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings Inc.:

“My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family… 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. Together my family and the company celebrate the tremendous man he was, and we will continue to work hard to uphold his remarkable legacy. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with him, to nurture and grow our businesses, but mostly I’m grateful to have called him my dad, and I know my siblings feel the same.”

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