Ex-Pistons CEO Tom Wilson joins Ilitch organization, which controls Detroit Red Wings, Tigers

By David Runk, AP
Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ex-Pistons CEO Tom Wilson joins Ilitch company

DETROIT — Tom Wilson, who for more than three decades oversaw a sports and entertainment empire that included the Detroit Pistons, was hired Tuesday to help lead a rival that controls the Detroit Red Wings and Tigers.

Wilson joins Ilitch Holdings Inc. after resigning last week as president and CEO of the Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports & Entertainment. To start, he’ll focus on the company’s sports and entertainment businesses.

“Tom has been absolutely masterful in his career at connecting brands and venues and companies,” Ilitch Holdings President and Chief Executive Christopher Ilitch said. “That match just made perfect sense.”

Wilson will serve as president and CEO of a newly created enterprise, which has yet to be named, and will report directly to Ilitch. Ilitch said Wilson will provide input into every aspect of the company, which includes Olympia Entertainment and its Detroit venues as well as the Little Caesars Pizza chain.

Wilson spent nearly 32 years as CEO of the Pistons and was key in building the team’s arena, The Palace of Auburn Hills. He said that after the death last year of Pistons owner Bill Davidson, the time was right to move on.

“We were competitors in the marketplace, but I have always admired the accomplishments of the entire Ilitch organization, on the field and in the community,” Wilson said.

The Red Wings’ lease at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena expires June 30. That has fueled speculation about whether they’ll get a new home. At the news conference, Ilitch said no decision has been made about a future home.

The Ilitch family has said it would like to build a new arena for the Red Wings or renovate Joe Louis, which opened in 1979. Little Caesars founders Mike and Marian Ilitch bought the Red Wings and Olympia in 1982.

Karen Davidson, Davidson’s wife and the current Pistons owner, has said the team could be sold alone or as part of a package with Palace Sports & Entertainment, which includes The Palace, DTE Energy Music Theatre and Meadow Brook Music Festival.

Asked whether the Ilitch organization is interested in buying the Pistons, Christopher Ilitch downplayed the possibility.

“I can’t predict the future, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you that we’re pursuing the Pistons,” Ilitch said. “We’re really focused on our Red Wings, we’re focused on our Tigers and all of our other businesses.”

On the Net:

Ilitch Holdings Inc.: www.ilitchholdings.com

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