By Jeff Moss
May 22, 2016
Last week, I was told by a source with connections to an organization with ties to Olympia Entertainment that Little Caesars founder and owner of the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings Mike Ilitch was extremely ill. The source further indicated that Mr. Ilitch had been hospitalized in May.
This isn’t the first time the DSR reported on Mr. Ilitch’s health — as we reported two years ago that the Ilitch patriarch was dealing with a cancer diagnosis — and I did not want to report this news without an additional source.
There have been clues in the last few weeks that Ilitch — who will turn 87 this July — might not currently be in the best of health. The billionaire did not show up for the Red Wings team picture in April. Then there was the oddly-timed announcement that Chris Ilitch would eventually replace Mike and Marian Ilitch in their current roles managing the Ilitch Family Empire.
At the time of that declaration — which came as a surprise to absolutely no one in Detroit — Marian was quoted as saying the pair were in “relatively good health.”
It would appear “relatively” is a relative term as a second source has now confirmed that Mr. Ilitch’s health took a turn for the worse sometime last month.
The DSR’s former managing editor Justin Spiro has enjoyed a connection inside the Ilitch organization for years and this information is coming from a person who would have intimate knowledge of the situation.
Which begs the following question …
Did Mike Ilitch’s health issues save the job of Brad Ausmus? It has been the worst-kept secret in Detroit that Mike Ilitch isn’t a big fan of the Tigers’ manager’s work over the last couple of seasons and Spiro had been reporting that it was Ilitch’s desire to replace Ausmus with former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland.
The speculation — completely Spiro-driven — became so intense about a Leyland return to the dugout that it led to Leyland giving an interview to Detroit News‘ Tigers writer Lynn Henning quelling that speculation.
We might never know if Chris Ilitch and Al Avila were able to stave off Mike’s desires to replace Ausmus because of a health scare, but we do hope Mike Ilitch lives long enough to see if his $200 million payroll gamble in 2016 will eventually pay off.