Wilson Joins Ilitch Organization Accomplished sports and entertainment industry leader to head new enterprise

Initial focus to include collaboration with Red Wings, Tigers and entertainment venues

DETROIT, Feb. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The hiring of Thomas S. Wilson as President and Chief Executive Officer of a newly created enterprise working across the Ilitch sports and entertainment businesses was announced today by Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc.  The hiring is effective immediately.

Wilson is joining the Ilitch organization after an illustrious 32-year career with the Detroit Pistons, including the last 22 years as president and CEO of Palace Sports and Entertainment.  In his new capacity, Wilson will report directly to Christopher Ilitch.

"Today is a landmark day for our entire organization," Ilitch said.  "Tom Wilson is a visionary in the industry who will make an immediate impact on our continued growth.  He has revolutionized the business in many ways during his career and will continue to do so.  His genuine passion and enthusiasm, coupled with his outstanding leadership abilities, promise to take our successful businesses to an even higher level.  

"We have an amazing organization today, with tremendous employees and excellent leaders.  And like any successful team, we're always looking for ways to grow, to improve, to become even better – and to take on new challenges," Ilitch stated.  "We have reached a point where it makes perfect sense to leverage the resources of all of our companies, and capitalize on synergies that can spur additional growth and innovation.  Tom will play a vital role in helping us achieve these business goals and identifying synergies across our companies.  He will have autonomy and support from me, and I know our other business leaders look forward to working side-by-side with Tom to enhance the collaboration among our companies."

As president and CEO of the soon-to-be-named new enterprise, Wilson will provide input into every aspect of the Ilitch companies.  One of his initial strategic priorities will be to leverage the natural business opportunities among Olympia Entertainment, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers – while also aggressively looking for new areas of collaboration to grow these businesses as well as other companies within the Ilitch enterprise.  

Wilson will also look for innovative ways to package and promote the substantial assets of Olympia Entertainment, one of the most diverse and leading sports and entertainment organizations in the country.  Olympia's vast portfolio of venues includes Detroit's legendary Fox Theatre, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Cobo Arena, Masonic Temple and City Theatre.  Wilson will be responsible for guiding and growing these venues as well as looking for opportunities to expand the portfolio.

"I feel very fortunate to have worked with a great organization and family in the Pistons and the Davidsons, and to now have a similar opportunity with an equally iconic sports, entertainment and civic-minded family like the Ilitches," Wilson said.  "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.

"There are wonderful assets here with the Wings, Tigers, the entertainment venues, and all of the other highly respected businesses," he noted.  "I'm excited to get started with my new colleagues.  And knowing Chris' vision for the organization in total, along with the experience and ideas I'd like to contribute, I can tell you that all of us have a unique opportunity to accomplish great things together – to do things we've never done before, and to go places we've never been."

Reporting to Wilson in his new position will be Dana Warg, president of Olympia Entertainment, and Steve Violetta, senior vice president of Business Affairs for the Detroit Red Wings.  Duane McLean, senior vice president of Business Operations for the Detroit Tigers, will continue to report directly to Tigers President, CEO and General Manager Dave Dombrowski, while also adding a strong dotted line reporting relationship to Wilson.

"Ken (Holland) and Dave will continue to report directly to me in running the sports operations of the Wings and Tigers, respectively.  Nothing changes in that regard," Team Owner Mike Ilitch stated.  "However, given Tom's sales and marketing expertise, his connections in the industry and community, and his proven ability to get things done, I believe that Ken, Dave and Tom will find natural opportunities to partner together on the promotional and customer service sides of hockey and baseball.  Once Chris and the guys put their heads together, the possibilities could be endless."

Holland, executive vice president and general manager of the Detroit Red Wings noted that he got to know Tom when Palace Sports & Entertainment owned the Tampa Bay Lightning, "I know that Tom is very well-respected in the sports and entertainment industry.  All of us at the Red Wings look forward to working closely with him," Holland said.

Dombrowski echoed Holland's welcoming comments regarding Wilson.

"I've known Tom personally over the years and have been genuinely impressed with his work and that of his staff at the Palace," Dombrowski said.  "I look forward to working with Tom.  It is great to have him as part of the overall Ilitch organization."

During Wilson's tenure with the Pistons, the team was widely recognized as one of the best marketed entities in the NBA.  Wilson was also instrumental in the design, staffing and operating philosophy of the state-of-the-art Palace of Auburn Hills, which has captured nine "Arena of the Year" awards over the years.  Wilson and his PS&E team were also responsible for the complete makeover of the DTE Energy Music Theatre, which was voted the number one amphitheater in the country the past 19 years and the Best Outdoor Concert Venue in 2000.

"We are thrilled to be adding a person of Tom's caliber to our organization," Ilitch said.  "He has a tremendous track record of leadership, success and innovation in the world of sports and entertainment. One of his hallmarks has been the ability to leverage and market resources across an organization, while also identifying new and exciting business opportunities along the way.  And he has an extraordinary gift to resonate his vision with sponsors, season ticket and suite holders, advertisers, sports fans and concert goers.  We're looking for those same high impact contributions.

"Our collective vision is one of continued growth and opportunity for the entire Ilitch organization," he added.  "It's going to be an exciting journey for all of us.  This is a harbinger of bigger and better things for sports and entertainment fans in Detroit, southeast Michigan and beyond."

About Ilitch Holdings, Inc.

Ilitch Holdings, Inc. provides professional services to the companies owned by Michael and/or Marian Ilitch.  The Ilitch companies in the food, sports and entertainment industries include: Little Caesars Pizza, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Little Caesars Pizza Kits Fundraising Program, Champion Foods and Uptown Entertainment.  Michael Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers.  Marian Ilitch is the sole owner of the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Thomas S. Wilson

Thomas S. “Tom” Wilson was named President and Chief Executive Officer of a newly created enterprise working across the Ilitch sports and entertainment businesses. He joined the organization on Feb. 23, 2010.  

As president and CEO of the soon-to-be-named new enterprise, Wilson will provide input into every aspect of the Ilitch companies. One of his initial strategic priorities will be to leverage the natural business opportunities among Olympia Entertainment, the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers – while also aggressively looking for new areas of collaboration to grow these businesses as well as other companies within the Ilitch enterprise.  

Wilson will also look for innovative ways to package and promote the substantial assets of Olympia Entertainment, one of the most diverse and leading sports and entertainment organizations in the country. Olympia’s vast portfolio of venues includes Detroit’s legendary Fox Theatre, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Cobo Arena, Masonic Temple and City Theatre. Wilson will be responsible for guiding and growing these venues as well as looking for opportunities to expand the portfolio.

Wilson had an illustrious 32-year career with the Detroit Pistons, including the last 22 years as president and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment, Inc. (PS&E). Wilson oversaw the Detroit Pistons and the organization’s three venues: The Palace, DTE Energy Music Theatre and Meadow Brook Music Festival. The Palace of Auburn Hills is home to the Detroit Pistons, members of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

The organization reached unprecedented success in 2004 when the Detroit Pistons won the NBA World Championship, the Tampa Bay Lightning – then owned by PS&E – earned the NHL’s Stanley Cup and the previously PS&E-owned Detroit Shock began defense of the WNBA title it earned the previous season. It marked the first time in pro sports history an ownership held three trophies simultaneously.

The Palace was designed largely around Wilson's input and he was responsible for staffing and developing the operational philosophies of the new arena. Under his direction, The Palace earned Arena of the Year awards nine times by Performance magazine, beginning with New Venue of the Year in 1988. His direction was instrumental in the renovation of DTE Energy Music Theatre. The facility was named the nation’s busiest, top grossing or highest attended outdoor venue in year-end lists of entertainment in trade publications in each of its 19 seasons under Wilson’s guidance. It was named Best Outdoor

Concert Venue in Pollstar’s 2000 Readers’ Poll and was nominated Amphitheatre of the Year each summer of PS&E ownership. In 1994, PS&E assumed management of Meadow Brook Music Festival on the grounds of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan.

A native of Detroit, Wilson joined the Pistons in 1978 and was promoted to Chief Executive Officer the following year. In 1993, Wilson was named President and CEO of the Pistons. During his tenure, the Pistons were recognized as one of the best-marketed and most highly valued teams in the NBA.

Wilson, a graduate of Cass Technical High School and Wayne State University, began his career working for the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and The Forum.

Wilson and his wife Linda reside in Oakland Township.

SOURCE Ilitch Holdings, Inc.



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