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Today's Takeaway with Florine Mark

Nov 20, 2023

With Denise Ilitch, podcaster and President of Ilitch Enterprises


When you grow up in one of the most influential and successful families in the country, your family name and reputation precede you. People may feel they know you before you’ve even been introduced. While a family name can open doors and expose you to amazing opportunities, there is also the inherited weight of that family legacy.


Denise Ilitch recalls how her parents invested their life savings in a little pizza store in Garden City, Michigan. Although it was a big risk, that purchase eventually became the fastest-growing pizza franchise in America. It paved the way for what is now one of the most successful global enterprises in the world. Today, the Ilitch family empire includes two major league sports teams, several entertainment complexes, and extensive real estate holdings. Mike and Marian Ilitch never took their success for granted and believed in the importance of giving back to those less fortunate. They first opened the Little Caesars Love Kitchen in 1985 as a way to aid disaster victims and feed the hungry. To date, more than 6.5 million meals have been provided to those in need. Founded in 2000, the Ilitch Charities organization made it possible to do more and they’ve donated thousands of volunteer hours and $250 million to worthy causes in support of community programs.


From an early age, Denise was taught to prioritize hard work and the importance of giving back. When her father would ask, “What did you contribute to the world today?” there was never any doubt as to what was expected of her and Denise embraced that challenge fully. Today, Denise is considered one of the most influential businesswomen in America. Over the past 30 years, she has distinguished herself as a respected business leader, an advocate for women and children, an outspoken community leader, and a philanthropist. She’s also a mother and devoted Grandmother.


In addition to her duties as President of Ilitch Enterprises, LLC, Denise will launch her campaign for a third term as a University of Michigan Regent along with the next season of her podcast, “The Denise Ilitch Show.” Well-versed in politics, Denise is a frequent guest on the Sunday CBS News Morning roundtable, “Michigan Matters.” She recently appeared alongside Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and CEO of Michigan Business Network, Chris Holman, touching on a wide range of topics from the UAW strike, the horrific terrorist attack in Israel, and the Detroit Lions. You won’t want to miss Florine’s interview with the very accomplished and inspirational, Denise Ilitch. 


What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • What was it like for Denise growing up in a family of seven children, that also happened to be one of the most powerful families in the U.S.?

  • Why did Denise’s father and mother decide on pizza?

  • What was Little Caesars like from the beginning, before it became one of the fastest-growing pizza chains in the country?

  • What lessons did Denise learn from both her very successful father and mother?

  • Denise’s parents were both different personalities, but they worked together perfectly.

  • Much to Florine’s delight, Denise’s mother, Marian, was the first guest on her “Remarkable Women” radio show.

  • The Ilitch family’s vital role in rebuilding the city of Detroit and renovating The Fox Theater.

  • Denise discusses Ilitch Charities and Little Caesars Love Kitchen.

  • What it was like for her father Mike to purchase the Detroit Tigers as a huge baseball lover. Fun fact — he was even drafted by the Tigers before buying them in 1992!

  • Denise’s tragic loss of a brother due to addiction, and the lesson it taught her about how important it is to reach out for help.

  • Denise talks about her role as a Regent at the University of Michigan.

  • What are the biggest issues facing women and children today?

  • What would we be surprised to learn about Denise?


Today’s Takeaway:

Being named one of Crain’s 100 Most Influential Women is a tremendous honor. Just as her mother was previously recognized for the very same award, Denise exemplifies what it means to be one of the city’s most influential women. She’s an outstanding businesswoman, community leader, and someone who advocates tirelessly on behalf of others. Denise inherited a family legacy that’s been credited with rebuilding a major American city. She was taught the importance of giving back to the community and guards her family legacy with grace and dignity. She continues to inspire and provide leadership in business, philanthropy, and education. Denise uses her podcast as a platform to motivate and inform others. Her guests are people she admires for their confidence, perseverance, and how they dealt with adversity. Every single day gives us gifts. My gift today is to talk to Denise and honor her for all the wonderful and amazing things that she has done in her life. She is truly an outstanding woman and role model! I’m Florine Mark and that’s “Today’s Takeaway.”



“Many people told them pizza was a trend, but of course, he proved it wasn’t.” — Denise [7:28]


“We all ended up at some point or another working in the family business because that’s what it was when we started from day one.” — Denise [8:18]


“There are so many lessons I’ve learned from [my father]. But, I would say probably the biggest lesson is to be kind to others, to be humble, and to give back to the community.” — Denise [9:02]


“What I admire about my mom and what I’ve seen her do in the business is that she perseveres. Failure is not an option.” — Denise [10:44]


“He bought the Tigers and for him, it was a dream come true. It was really like watching a passionate fan run the team.” — Denise [17:26]


“Reach out for help, as much as you can.” — Denise [18:08]


“I encourage people, not to allow that stigma to stand in the way of getting help for your loved one.” — Denise [19:32]


“It’s a family disease, not just the disease of one person.” — Denise [19:42]


“It's a privilege for me to be a regent at the University of Michigan. It's my alma mater. I love the University and I love the work that we do. It's very exciting and fun to be on the board because you can help students and you can help people.” — Denise [20:51]


Brought to You By:

Florine Mark


Mentioned in This Episode: 

Denise Ilitch — The University of Michigan

Little Caesars

Ilitch Companies

Denise Ilitch Show

Detroit Tigers