Little Caesars Founder Mike Ilitch Dies at 87

The billionaire founder of Little Caesars died Friday

Mike Ilitch, the billionaire founder of the Little Caesars pizza empire, died Friday at the age of 87.

Mike Ilitch, the billionaire founder of the Little Caesars pizza chain, died Friday in Detroit, a company spokesperson said. He was 87.

Ilitch was born in Detroit in 1929, and Ilitch and his wife Marian were both first-generation Americans; their parents were immigrants from Macedonia. Ilitch joined the Marine Corps after graduating high school, and later went on to become a minor league baseball player and door-to-door salesman. In 1959, the Ilitches opened a pizza restaurant called Little Caesars Pizza Treat in Garden City, Michigan. That restaurant eventually grew to become the Little Caesars chain, which CNN reports posted $3.4 billion in revenues last year. The Ilitches later bought the Detroit Tigers professional baseball team, and the Detroit Red Wings hockey team.

Little Caesars is still family owned, and last year Mike and Marian Ilitch named their son, Christopher, president and CEO of their family's company.

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