Vice Chairwoman, Ilitch Holdings, Inc.
Marian Ilitch is one of the leading entrepreneurs in the food and entertainment industry. As a first-generation American, the daughter of Macedonian immigrants raised on grit and hard work, Marian has been recognized as one of the most successful businesswomen in the country.
Early Start in Business
Marian started out in the food business early by helping out in her father’s restaurant as a young girl. Her first responsibilities were filling napkin containers, putting salt and pepper shakers out, and other side work. Marian graduated from Fordson High School in Dearborn, Michigan, and attended Dearborn Community College where she studied liberal arts and completed one accounting class.
Marian’s first paying job was at SS Kresge on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn. Later she worked as a reservation clerk for Delta Airlines (on Washington Blvd. in Detroit) before marrying Mike Ilitch. Marian was captured by the hustle and bustle of working in downtown Detroit and that excitement drove her desire for eventually doing business back in the city. Marian was a stay-at-home mom until after her third child. It’s at this point that Marian and her husband Mike opened the first Little Caesars; she was dedicated to helping her husband launch the business and has continued as his business partner to this day.
Mom-and-Pop Business and Beyond
Marian and her husband Mike grew a mom-and-pop pizza business in a suburb of Detroit into the world’s largest carry-out pizza chain, Little Caesars, with restaurants on four continents. As Little Caesars has grown, Marian Ilitch has branched out into other areas such as: food distribution, sports, arena and entertainment management, real estate development, casino gaming and hotel management.
As an avid hockey fan, Marian accepted the challenge of taking a downtrodden professional hockey team and trying to turn it into a powerhouse when she and her husband purchased the Detroit Red Wings in 1982. Under their 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 for Western Conference championships and four Stanley Cups. The Red Wings have played post-season hockey for 20 consecutive years – the best current record in all of professional sports.
Marian and her husband Mike became pioneers in the redevelopment of downtown Detroit when they purchased the Fox theatre building in 1987, renovated the theatre and adjacent office building and brought their Little Caesars world headquarters downtown.
In 1999, Marian and her husband formed Ilitch Holdings, Inc., to provide professional services to their primary business interests.
And, Marian’s investment in the city grew when she bought a stake in MotorCity Casino in Detroit, Mich., in 1999. Then in April 2005, she became its sole owner. The purchase by Marian keeps the casino ownership within the Detroit community and makes MotorCity Casino the largest and most successful casino in the country that is owned by a woman. In 2008, MotorCity Casino Hotel completed a $300 million expansion and renovation project adding a luxury hotel, spa, conference center, several new restaurants, 1,800-seat theatre and permanent gaming area.
Investing in the Community
Giving back to the community is Marian’s trademark. MotorCity Casino Hotel is actively involved in the community and contributes about $1 million annually to local charities.
Other charitable efforts include the Little Caesars Love Kitchen that started in 1985. This mobile pizza restaurant travels the country to feed victims of disaster, the hungry and volunteers. The Love Kitchen has fed more than 2 million people in the U.S. and Canada. The program has been recognized by former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton for community service.
Besides donating millions of dollars to charitable organizations, Marian and her husband have established Ilitch Charities, a non-profit organization that invests in our community’s future by supporting innovative, collaborative and measurable programs in the areas of community development, human services, education and recreation through contributions from the Ilitch companies, their colleagues and the generosity of others.
Nation’s Top Businesswoman
Marian has earned a reputation as a dynamic force in the restaurant and entertainment industries. She continues to blaze new trails and respond to the changing needs of the marketplace. She has received many awards including:
- Received a Doctorate of Business Degree from Michigan State University (2011).
- Received a Woman of Achievement and Courage Trillium Lifetime Achievement Award from the Michigan Women’s Foundation for exemplary leadership, philanthropic service and vision that help shape and transform the lives of Michigan residents (2011).
- Inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (2010)
- Named one of Detroit’s most powerful women by dbusiness magazine (2010)
- Received a NMA Hall of Fame Award from the National Management Association for personal and professional contributions for the development of management and leadership through exemplary personal behavior (2010)
- Presented with a Legacy in Motion Family Spirit Award from the Michigan Chronicle (2009)
- Presented with the Inaugural Neal Shine Shining Light Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership (2007)
- Named one of the Southwest Detroit region’s most influential women by Crain’s Detroit Business (2007)
- Presented with a NAWBO Top 10 Women in Business Award (2007)
- Named Crain’s Detroit Business Top Women in Business Honoree (2005)
- Named one of Detroit’s Enterprising Women by the Detroit Historical Society in partnership with the Women’s Economic Club, National Association of Women Business Owners, Greater Detroit Chapter and Crain’s Detroit Business. (2004)
- Inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame (2001)
- Named Michigan Executive of the Year by the Wayne State School of Business Administration (1999)
- Awarded the Hospice of Southeastern Michigan Council Crystal Rose Award for leadership, compassion and dedication to the community (1997)
- Recognized by the American Red Cross of Southeastern Michigan for aiding emergency services and the work of the Red Cross friends (1996)
- Recognized as the number one women business owner in the nation by Working Women Magazine (1994)
- Recognized as one of Michigan’s Top 25 women business owners by the Greater Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners (1994)
- Presented with the Roundtable for Women in Foodservice Pacesetter Award in recognition of lasting and outstanding contributions made by women in foodservice (1988)