Mike Ilitch Sr. is the founder of Little Caesars. That’s right “Pizza! Pizza!” was founded by a United States Marine. Mike was born on July 20, 1929, in Detroit, Michigan, and played baseball at Cooley High School. After graduation, the Detroit Tigers offered him a $5000 signing bonus, Mike asked them to double it and they refused. He went on to enlist in the Marine Corps and served from 1948 – 1952. He thought he was on his way to the Korean War, when a general insisted that he play baseball for the Marine Corps in Pearl Harbor.
After his four years in the Corps, Mike signed with the Tigers for $5000 and spent four years in the Detroit Tigers farm system, playing for the minor leagues. His parents didn’t approve of their son’s career choice, but Mike had a dream and he worked hard to fulfill it. To make spending money while playing ball, Mike convinced a nightclub owner that he should be serving pizzas. The Detroit-area businessman hired Mike to make pizzas in a back room. Mike had stumbled onto an idea that was about to take off like a F-18. With their $10,000 life savings and borrowing an additional $15,000, Mike and his wife, Marian, decided to open a pizza parlour in a Garden City, Michigan strip mall. Mike planned on naming the pizza parlour ‘Pizza Treat,’ but Marian insisted that ‘Little Caesar’s’ (her nickname for Mike) would be a better choice. In May 1959, Little Caesar’s Pizza Treat opened and now has over 5000 stores and generates over $3 billion each year.
Mike has expanded his businesses and now owns Little Caesars, the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, Olympia Entertainment, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program, MotorCity Casino Hotel and Olympia Development.
Mike attributes his success to the Marine Corps because the experience helped him become more focused and organized, helping him to set goals for his future.
I couldn’t find a biography on Mike, but if you are a Detroit Tigers or Detroit Red Wings fan there is plenty of team memorabilia available.