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Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch died this afternoon. He was 87 years old.

After a stint in the Marine Corps, Ilitch played minor league ball in the Tigers’ and Yankees’ organizations. He lasted four years before leaving the game in 1955 due to a knee injury. Ilitch founded Little Caesars in 1959 and made his fortune running the pizza chain.


Ilitch purchased the Red Wings in 1982 for $8 million. During his tenure as owner, they won four Stanley Cups and won their division 16 times. Ilitch tried to buy the Tigers shortly after, but he was outbid by another local pizza mogul. He eventually succeeded and paid Domino’s owner Tom Monaghan $82 million for the Tigers in 1992. They made it to the World Series twice.

His son Christopher released a short statement on behalf of the Ilitch family:

“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.”

Staff writer, Deadspin

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