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Little Caesars Pizza Tycoon Mike Ilitch Has Died

He was 87

Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup Victory Parade Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

Billionaire pizza tycoon Mike Ilitch, the patriarch of the Little Caesars empire, died Friday at the age of 87, the Associated Press reports. A business man first, Ilitch and his wife Marian together built one of the world’s largest carryout enterprises on a mountain of Hot-n-Ready pizzas and the catchy slogan “Pizza! Pizza!”

The couple founded the company in 1959 in the Detroit suburb of Garden City, Michigan, and grew it into a $3.4 billion per year business. Beginning in the early 80s the Ilitches began branching out into into athletics and entertainment, purchasing the Red Wings hockey team and later the Detroit Tigers baseball team, downtown Detroit’s Fox Theatre, and the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

“My father was a once-in-a-generation entrepreneur, visionary and leader, setting the tone for our organization and our family,” president and CEO Christopher Ilitch said in a statement.

Ilitch was a complicated figure, too. The family recently received a mix of praise and criticism, when their privately-owned corporation Ilitch Holdings Inc., somewhat controversially began redeveloping a massive section of Midtown Detroit with the help of public funds. The “District Detroit” will include a new hockey arena dubbed the Little Caesars arena, a new Little Caesar’s world headquarters campus, and several residential and commercial neighborhoods surrounding the entertainment district. However, he was also known for acts of kindness. The Detroit Free Press reports that the pizza mogul once assisted in paying civil rights icon Rosa Parks’ rent in the mid-1990s.

Following the announcement, sports and Little Caesars Pizza fans across the country paid tribute Ilitch.

The family is expected to hold a private funeral service. The details of the public memorial are still forthcoming.

Detroit Tigers, Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch Dies at Age 87 [AP]

Tigers, Red Wings Owner and Pizza Titan Mike Ilitch Dead at 87 [Freep]

Did You Know? Mike Ilitch Once Paid Rosa Parks' Rent [Freep]

All RIP Coverage [ED]