Mike Ilitch, the owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, died Friday at the age of 87. A family spokesman said that Ilitch died while in the hospital, per the AP.
Ilitch, who founded the Little Caesars pizza chain in 1959, bought the NHL’s Red Wings in 1982 and presided over four Stanley Cup titles. He bought Major League Baseball’s Tigers 10 years later. The Tigers reached the World Series twice under Ilitch’s stewardship, once in 2006 and again in 2012, but did not win a championship.
Ilitch’s son Christopher released a 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.”
Condolences for Ilitch’s family quickly spread across social media, with a prevailing theme being admiration for Ilitch’s commitment to building winning teams.
Mike Ilitch influenced a city’s sports culture — and the city itself — to a degree rarely (if ever) seen before in American history. @MLB
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) February 11, 2017
Detroit was lucky to have Mike Ilitch as a franchise owner. Spent well beyond Tigers' revenues because all he wanted was one thing: to win.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 11, 2017
Scott Boras on Mike Ilitch: "He could serve as a model for what a baseball owner should be. He was committed to his team, his city."
— Jason Beck (@beckjason) February 11, 2017
Former Tigers manager Jim Leyland, on the passing of team owner Mike Ilitch: "I'm crushed right now. He did so much for me."
— anthony fenech (@anthonyfenech) February 11, 2017
Heartbroken hearing of Mr I's passing. He was a family man. A self made man. A giving man. An icon for our city and nation. #RIPMrIllitch
— Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) February 11, 2017
— TheDLine™ (@TheDetroitLine) February 10, 2017
I cannot think of an owner in pro sports who cared more or did more for his community than Mike Ilitch did for Detroit. What a legacy.
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) February 10, 2017
— Danny DeKeyser (@DeKeyser5) February 11, 2017