On this day, July 20 in the year 1929, the founder of pizza chain Little Caesars was born in Michigan, USA. His name was Michael ‘Mike’ Ilitch Sr., also the owner of two Detroit-based sports team. According to forbes.com, his net worth was $6 billion at the time of his death in February, 2017.
Mike Ilitch was the son of Macedonian immigrants. His father was a tool and die maker. He did not go to college. After graduating from high school, he joined the US Marine Corps for four years. When he was discharged, he played nonstop for the Detroit Tigers baseball team, retiring after four years when he suffered a knee injury. He then got a job as a door-to-door salesman.
In 1959, Mike started Little Caesars Pizza Treat with the help of his wife. The original store still exists in Gardens City, Michigan. In 1962, the store sold its first franchise. Today, the company is the third largest pizza chain in the world, behind Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza. The company remains privately owned.
In 1982, Mike purchased the Detroit Red Wings for $9 million and successfully turned it into an elite NHL team. Its current value is more than $600 million. In 1992, he bought the struggling Detroit Tigers for $82 million from fellow pizza magnate Tom Managhan of Domino’s. This team is now worth more than a billion dollars. As sports team owner, Mike was known for caring his athletes well. In 2003, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mike died on February 10, 2017 at the age of 87. He had 7 children with his wife Marian.