Marian Ilitch is a partner in BarWest Gaming, which was formed to work with the Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Indians of Warm Springs, to assist in the Tribe’s efforts to secure, develop and operate a gaming enterprise in the city of Barstow.
With more than 50 years of business experience, Marian Ilitch is one of the leading entrepreneurs in the food and entertainment industries, including owning and operating the largest and most successful women owned casino in America. 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, Mich., and attended Dearborn Community College where she studied liberal arts.
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.
A History of Growth and Innovation
The Ilitch companies, the eleven businesses owned by Detroit entrepreneur Marian Ilitch, and/or her husband Michael, all started with pizza, once thought of as simply a snack food. But hard work and innovation grew one Little Caesars pizza store in a Michigan suburb into a world-class food, sports and entertainment organization.
More than 50 years after that one pizza shop opened, the Ilitch companies bring customers HOT-N-READY® pizza, exciting entertainment at top venues, professional sports, state-of-the-art gaming, quality food manufacturing and more.
The companies collectively employ over 18,500 full-time and part-time employees nationwide and have 304 million customer interactions annually. In 2010, the organization posted system-wide revenues of $4.2 billion.
Ilitch Companies Overview
Today, the Ilitch companies are 11 growing, innovative companies, including:
Little Caesars Pizza – Little Caesars is the world’s largest carry-out pizza chain with stores in 50 states and 16 countries across the globe. Known for quality and value, the quickly expanding chain has been voted “Best Value in America” for all quick-serve restaurants four years running.
Blue Line Foodservice Distribution – A complete food and restaurant equipment supply organization with 23 distribution centers across North America. Blue Line services a diverse customer base through a fully automated logistics platform.
Detroit Red Wings – The Detroit Red Wings are an original six National Hockey League franchise formed in 1926 and steeped in a tradition of winning. The 11-time Stanley Cup Champions have appeared in the playoffs for 20 consecutive years.
Olympia Entertainment – One of the most diverse sports and entertainment companies in the United States featuring some of Detroit’s most popular venues. Olympia Entertainment offers a wide range of quality entertainment including sporting events, musicals, comedy performances, family entertainment and concerts.
Detroit Tigers Baseball Club – The Detroit Tigers are a charter member of the American League in 1901 and one of the most storied franchises in Major League Baseball. The 111-year-old team has won four World Series and ten American League Championships. The club is solely owned by Michael Ilitch.
Olympia Development – Olympia Development is a real estate development company with a 25-year history of investing in and developing some of Detroit’s most recognized and visited venues, such as the famous Fox Theatre.
Champion Foods – Champion Foods is an innovative manufacturer of premier branded and private label food products, available in over 7,000 U.S. stores. A state-of-the-art food manufacturing facility in New Boston, Michigan supports a quickly expanding product line.
Little Caesar Pizza Kit Fundraising Program – North America’s top pizza kit fundraising program used by schools, sports teams and other non-profit organizations. Groups have collectively raised millions for their causes.
Ilitch Holdings, Inc. – A professional services organization that supports the Ilitch companies and its owners.
Uptown Entertainment – The operator of three first-run movie theaters with top amenities, advanced digital projection, 3D movie and alternative content technology, premium concessions and event-hosting capabilities. Also operates a food court and retail shop for The Detroit Science Center.
MotorCity Casino Hotel – World-class entertainment destination with exciting high-tech gaming, a luxury hotel and spa, intimate theatre, award-winning restaurants, exclusive nightlife and premier meeting and conference facilities. Detroit’s only locally-owned casino. Solely owned by Marian Ilitch.
Highlights Along the Way
From the beginning, Marian has had a special knack for success. A stickler for details, when Marian is presented with a challenge, she rises to the occasion.
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 record in all of professional sports.
Marian, along with her husband Mike, became a pioneer in the redevelopment of downtown Detroit when they purchased the historic Fox Theatre, renovated and restored the theatre and adjacent office building and brought their Little Caesars world headquarters downtown in the late 1980’s. Their example, at a time when many were moving out of Detroit, and the subsequent development of Foxtown, the area surrounding the Fox Theatre, has continued to spur others in the community to invest and work to revitalize the downtown for more than three decades.
Marian’s investment in the City of Detroit grew when she became one of the initial investors in Detroit’s MotorCity Casino in 1999. In April 2005, she became its sole owner. The purchase by Marian keeps the casino ownership within the Detroit community and makes MotorCity 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. The Ilitch companies support our community in valuable ways, whether it is by providing hot pizza meals to the hungry, teaching children the fundamentals of sports, providing grants to charitable causes, making in-kind donations or sponsoring beloved community traditions. In total, charitable across the Ilitch companies exceeds $4.4 million annually.
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 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)