Mike Ilitch owns both the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, revitalizing both organizations. At one time, Ilitch was front and center at all events and announcements for each franchise. But appearances by the 84-year-old Ilitch have become few and far between over the past two years. Failing health was rumored to be the reason.
After looking frail and in ill health when accepting the AL Championship trophy in October 2012, Ilitch last appeared at a Tigers function a month later, the press conference introducing Torii Hunter as a Tiger in November. The long-time Tigers owner (having bought the team in 1992) was conspicuous in his absence during his team's playoff run last season. It's believed it's been even longer since Ilitch has attended a Red Wings function.
On the eve of the retiring the number of one of the Red Wings' all-time greats, defenseman Nick Lidstrom, Ilitch released a statement saying he would not be in attendance. The octogenarian owner admitted to undergoing a medical procedure which has kept from team activities.
"While Marian and I would love to be there, we won’t be at tomorrow’s jersey retirement for Nick Lidstrom. This past year, I had a medical procedure that has kept me out of the spotlight for awhile. I feel much better now, and I’m stronger every day. While we may not attend every event, we never miss a game on TV and are very involved in all our businesses every day from home and the office.
"We want to congratulate Nick, his wife Annika, and their family on this honor. He’s very deserving and we’re so proud and fortunate to have had him as a part of the Red Wings family for more than 20 years. We thank him with all our hearts."
One of the biggest fears of Tigers fans would be the failing health of Mike Ilitch affecting the running of the team, closing what has been a wide-open pocketbook in his desperate efforts to win a World Series before his time runs out on this mortal plane. I'm sure there's some type of succession plan in place with Ilitch Holdings if the worst happens, but you can never be confident as to how it will play out. I recoil at the thought of the Tigers and Red Wings going through ownership drama. But it could happen.
The Detroit Pistons went through a worst case scenario after the death of owner Bill Davidson.
After Davidson's passing, the franchise became mired in dysfunction and mediocrity, where it remains to this day. The hands of GM Joe Dumars were financially tied for nearly two years, unable to make any sort of move (which would have allowed him to correct some of his own mistakes) while Davidson's widow looked for a buyer, who turned out to be Tom Gores.
The jury is still out as to how good of an owner Gores will be. But after the recent turmoil in the coaching staff (head coach Maurice Cheeks let go after just 50 games) and front office (Dumars likely to be fired at the end of the season), along with the Pistons owning a losing record in what is a brutally bad eastern conference, signs point to Gores not being able to steward the team at the same level as Davidson, who won three NBA titles as owner.
In his statement, Ilitch says he's feeling better and getting stronger. For everyone's sake, I sincerely hope that's true.