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Sports And Pizza Entrepreneur Mike Illitch Dead At 87

DETROIT (CelebrityAccess) — Mike Ilitch, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and Detroit Tigers and founder of the Little Caesars Pizza chain has died. He was 87.

According to ABC News, family spokesman Doug Kuiper says Ilitch died Friday at a hospital.

Ilitch and his wife opened their first pizza restaurant in the Detroit suburb of Garden City, Michigan in 1959 and parlayed the business into the third largest pizza chain in U.S. with franchises Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Latin America.

Illitch acquired the NHL team Detroit Red Wings in 1982 from Bruce Norris for a reported $8 million and quickly turned the team into a regular contender for the Stanley Cup. He followed it up a decade later when he acquired the MLB team The Detroit Tigers for $85 million.

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

“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.” – Staff Writers