Marian Ilitch 101: Famous Billionaire Businesswoman
Zatrun Published at June 23, 2023

In our article titled “Marian Ilitch 101: Who is the Famous Billionaire Businesswoman?” on, we will delve into everything you need to know in detail about the famous billionaire businesswoman Marian Ilitch that our readers are curious about.

Who is Marian Ilitch?

Marian Bayoff Ilitch is an American female businesswoman and co-founder of Little Caesars Pizza along with her husband, Mike Ilitch. According to Bloomberg, as of March 2018, Ilitch is one of the world’s wealthiest seven women. The Ilitches founded Little Caesars Pizza in 1959 and expanded their interests to include restaurants, entertainment, sports, and gaming. Marian Ilitch was born and raised in Dearborn, Michigan in 1933. Her father was a Macedonian immigrant from Bouf (now Florina, Greece). Her husband, Mike Ilitch, also came from a Macedonian immigrant family.

The couple met in 1954 at a dinner arranged by Mike’s father. They got married a year later and have seven children: Christopher Paul Ilitch (born June 1965) is the CEO and president of Ilitch Holdings, Inc.; Denise D. Ilitch (born November 1955) is a lawyer and former vice president, who co-chaired Ilitch Holdings with her brother. The other children are Ronald “Ron” Tyrus Ilitch, Michael C. Ilitch Jr., Lisa M. Ilitch Murray, Atanas Ilitch (born Thomas Ilitch), and Carole M. Ilitch. Ron Ilitch was found dead in a hotel room at the age of 61 in 2018.

Casinos and Indian Gaming:

Marian Ilitch was one of the original investors of MotorCity Casino and saw an opportunity to purchase complete control of the complex in 2005. By buying out the shares of other minor shareholders and Mandalay Resort Group, she took control of MotorCity Casino. Marian completed the acquisition, which included renovation efforts for the casino, by paying only $600 million. Michigan’s gambling laws prohibit a company from owning multiple Detroit casino properties. MotorCity Casino, owned by Ilitch, is reported to be one of the largest independent casino operators in the United States and is probably the largest female-owned casino in the country.

Marian Ilitch and her partner Michael J. Malik, Sr. followed their interests in casino gambling beyond Detroit and across the coast. They acted as casino developers for Native American tribes recognized by the US federal government, which became a means of generating revenue. They worked with the Ottawa Tribe of Michigan to develop the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee, Michigan. Ilitch partnered with the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Hampton Bays, New York to develop a casino development plan in Long Island. She also partnered with the Cahuilla and Cupeno Indian Tribes in Barstow, California to develop a casino through Barwest, LLC.

Ilitch Holdings Inc.:

Marian Ilitch served as Vice President and Secretary-Treasurer for various assets of her family. In 1999, Ilitch Holdings, Inc. was established as the parent company for the family’s diverse interests. After her husband’s death, she took over as the President. Ilitch Holdings includes Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, Champion Foods, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, and various food services and entertainment venues in these businesses.

Marian and Mike purchased the Red Wings for $8 million in 1982. Under the Ilitch family ownership, the Detroit Red Wings won four Stanley Cups: in 1997, 1998, 2002, and 2008. Marian Ilitch and her three daughters are among only 12 women to have their names engraved on the Cup. Mike Ilitch’s baseball team, the Detroit Tigers, had losing records in 12 out of 13 seasons, but he turned the team around. They made the playoffs for the first time since 1987.

The Ilitches successfully initiated a public/private partnership with the taxpayers of the greater Detroit area and embarked on an effort to build a new home. Comerica Park, with a cost of more than $300 million, opened in April 2000. Ilitch Holdings, Inc. manages the stadium and parking.

Investing in the Community:

MotorCity Casino has contributed approximately $1 million to local aid organizations in Detroit. In 1985, Marian Ilitch and her husband established the Little Caesars Love Kitchen Foundation, which started as a mobile pizza restaurant. Love Kitchen has helped feed over 2 million people across the US and Canada, providing aid to those suffering from hunger and disasters. The efforts of Love Kitchen were recognized by Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton.

Aside from donating millions of dollars to charities, Ilitch and her husband established Ilitch Charities for Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in the areas of health, education, and recreation. The foundation has sponsored numerous programs in the Detroit area, including amateur sports sponsorships, and has helped hundreds of thousands of children.

Legacy and Awards:

  • In 1988, Ilitch was awarded the Pacesetter Award by the Roundtable for Women in Foodservice.
  • In 1994, the Great Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners recognized Ilitch as one of Michigan’s top 25 women business owners.
  • In 1996, the American Red Cross Southeastern Michigan Chapter praised Ilitch for her assistance in emergency services and contribution to the work of Red Cross friends.
  • In 1997, she was awarded the Crystal Rose Award by the Hospice of Southeastern Michigan Council.
  • In 1999, she was named Michigan Executive of the Year by the Wayne State School of Business Administration.
  • In 2001, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.
  • In 2004, in collaboration with the Detroit Historical Society, the Women’s Economic Club, the National Association of Women Business Owners Great Detroit Chapter, and Crain’s Detroit Business, Ilitch was named one of Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Women.
  • In 2005, she received the Best Business Woman Award from Crain’s Detroit Business.
  • In 2008, she was elected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2010, she was inducted.
  • She was recognized as the country’s best woman business owner by Working Woman Magazine.

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