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Michael & Marian Ilitch Little Caesar’s Pizza Co-Founders (1959) / Ilitch Charities

Marian and Mike Ilitch (above), co-founders of Little Caesar’s Pizza, are among our nation’s leading entrepreneurs. Over many years, both have established an amazing variety of charitable initiatives that have given practical expression to their shared concern for giving back to the wider community.

Michael and Marian Ilitch are leading entrepreneurs in the food, sports and entertainment industries. They founded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959 with a single store in Garden City, Michigan. Fifty-seven years later, Little Caesars is the world’s largest carry-out pizza chain and an internationally known brand.

Their success in pizza enabled them to own a variety of other successful businesses, including Ilitch Holdings, Inc., the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, Motor City Casino Hotel and Olympia Development of Michigan. The companies collectively employ over 23,000 people and have a total combined annual revenue of $3.3 billion. (Source:

Giving Back to the Community

Giving back to the community has been a core value for the Ilitches since their early days in business. They contribute both personally and through a variety of charitable initiatives established through their businesses, including:

Little Caesars Amateur Sports

Little Caesars Love Kitchen

Ilitch Charities

Detroit Tigers Foundation

Detroit Red Wings Foundation

Little Caesars Veterans Program

Mike & Marian Ilitch’s Unwavering Commitment to Detroit

In addition to their charitable endeavors, Michael and Marian Ilitch have shown an unwavering commitment to their beloved city of Detroit dating back to the opening of their first Little Caesars store in Detroit in 1967. Substantial investments in the city continued with the renovation of the Fox Theatre and Fox Office Building in the 1980s, development of Comerica Park in the 1990s, and expansion of Marian Ilitch’s Motor City Casino Hotel in the 2000s. Today, construction is underway to develop The District Detroit, a 50-block, walkable and livable urban district anchored by Little Caesars Arena - a state-of-the-art entertainment center and new home for the Detroit Red Wings – in a significantly underutilized area of Detroit.

Little Caesars “Love Kitchen” …and More Ilitch Charities’ Embody its Motto: “Show Your Heart”

One of Ilitch's first philanthropic efforts was the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, established in 1985. The traveling restaurant was formed to feed the hungry and assist with food provisions during national disasters – most recently helping the flood victims and volunteers in North Dakota. The program has been recognized by former Presidents Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, and has served more than 3 million individuals in the United States and Canada.

In 2006, inspired by a veteran returning to civilian life after losing both of his legs in war, Ilitch founded the Little Caesars Veterans Program to provide honorably discharged veterans with a business opportunity when they transition from service or seek a career change. Ilitch received the Secretary's Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

In recognition of his service to Veterans, Honorable R. James Nicholson, then Secretary of Veterans Affairs, presented Little Caesar Enterprises, Inc. founder Michael Ilitch with the Secretary’s Award in 2007.

Veteran, Rick Loz and the Little Caesars Veterans Program

During the ceremony, which took place in the nation’s capitol, Mr. Nicholson stated: “Michael Ilitch has demonstrated great patriotism by providing business opportunities to honorably discharged Veterans through the Little Caesars Veterans Program. This award, the highest honor my office can bestow, represents the VA’s appreciation of a Detroit business leader who is making a difference for U.S. military Veterans as they transition to civilian life or make a career change.”

Upon accepting the award, Mr. Ilitch reflected: “Veterans and their families have made significant sacrifices for our country, and I feel that it’s important to acknowledge that, and to thank them for their service. … I thought what better way to say thank you to the men and women who have given so much for our nation than to provide them with a business opportunity; becoming a Little Caesars franchisee. I’m very honored that the program, and the people who created it, are being recognized with this prestigious award.” (Source: )

Today there are 50 Little Caesars Veteran franchisees who have applied more than $1.5 million in benefits.

Building Character On and Off the Ice

Little Caesar’s Girls’ 16U Hockey team are the proud 2016 Michigan Amateur Hockey Association Champions

The Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program (for girls and boys), established by Ilitch in 1968, has provided opportunities for tens of thousands of youngsters over the years. Not only has it paved the way for a number of extremely talented players to make it to the NHL, it has helped develop character on and off the ice for those who have participated in the program.

2016 MAHA Girls 16U Tier 1 State Final - Honeybaked vs. Little Caesars

Practice (Ice) Makes Perfect for Little Caesars Youth Hockey at New Arena

Additionally, Ilitch Charities for Children was founded in 2000 as a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the lives of children in the areas of health, education and recreation. In 2008, the charity was renamed Ilitch Charities and its focus was broadened. The new charity invests in the community's future by supporting innovative, collaborative and measurable programs that promote economic development and spur job growth, as a means to address social issues such as poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger.

GIVING BACK”: 2015 Ilitch Charities Celebrity Golf Classic

Renewing the Heart of Downtown Detroit

Today, the Ilitches are part of two of the most exciting teams in professional sports: the Detroit Red Wings (purchased by Mike and Marian in 1982) and the Detroit Tigers (purchased by Mike in 1992). Under Ilitch ownership, the Red Wings have won 16 divisional championships, six President’s Trophies (for the season-best record among all NHL teams), six Campbell Bowls and four Stanley Cups. The team has played post-season hockey for 25 consecutive years — the most in all of current professional sports.

In 2000, doors opened to a new, $295-million ballpark for the Detroit Tigers, Comerica Park. In 2006, the Tigers captured the American League pennant for the first time in 22 years and they repeated this feat in 2012. The Tigers also won the Central Division Championship for four consecutive years, from 2011 through 2014.

Little Caesars Arena: Detroit’s Exciting New Landmark in “Hockeytown!”

In 2014, ground was broken on a new home for the Detroit Red Wings, now called Little Caesars Arena, which forms the Heart of The District Detroit. This project, led by Olympia Development, is designed to renovate 50 blocks of Detroit.

The District Detroit & New Arena - Preview Center

Wayne State's Mike Ilitch School of Business

The District Detroit Set to Open in 2018

The new Mike Ilitch School of Business, expected to be complete in 2018, is the product of a $40 million donation from the Ilitch Family, $35 million of which will be used for the 120,000-square-foot building at Woodward Avenue and Temple Street. The remaining $5 million from the donation is for an endowment for the school itself.

The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business is expected to be complete in 2018.

The new school is part of The District Detroit project, the sweeping redevelopment plan for 45-50 blocks of the downtown area that will include the new $627.5 million hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings. (Source: )

Induction into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame

Mike Ilitch, upon being formally inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame (Builder Category) in 2003, remarked:

"I was raised in Detroit. I came from zero. This community helped make me. It's nice to give something back. …By far, this is the biggest moment of my professional life.  It's been an absolute labor of love. I'm so pleased with this moment that when I was informed, I could barely speak."

With characteristic humility, he added his personal perspective on life:

"Be humble and never toot your own horn." - Mike Ilitch







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