Chris Granger, who resigned last month as Sacramento Kings’ president, has landed in Detroit.
Christopher Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., announced that Granger has joined the organization as group president of sports and entertainment. The position is new to the Detroit-based firm.
In a published announcement, Ilitch – whose company oversees the Little Caesars Pizza franchise, the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers – said Granger will work with him “to optimize the fan and partner experience at all Ilitch-related venues; to grow, recruit and retain the significant talent in the business side of the company’s sports and entertainment organizations; to collaborate with partners to ensure highly active, attractive and community-focused venues, and more.”
“Bringing Chris to Detroit and to our organization is a big win,” Ilitch said. “His proven history of innovation, fan-first approach and community commitment are a perfect fit for our team as we prepare for the opening of Little Caesars Arena and ongoing development across (Detroit). We’re incredibly excited to add Chris to our already very strong team.”
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Little Caesars Arena is scheduled to open in September in midtown Detroit. The $863 million facility will be the home of the Red Wings and the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.
A new arena will not be a new experience for Granger, who is considered a founding father of Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center and a key figure in related development around the state-of-the-art facility.
Granger’s role in Sacramento dates back to the era of the Maloof family ownership of the Kings. NBA Commissioner David Stern sent Granger to oversee the Kings’ marketing and ticket sales divisions amid near-daily rumors and reports that the Maloofs were looking to move the Kings out of Sacramento.
Granger, who headed the group of NBA business staffers who frequently joined him in Sacramento, spent weeks putting the organization back together after the failed relocations to Anaheim in 2011 and Seattle in 2013, when there was genuine concern that the city would lose its sole major pro sports franchise.
Granger’s efforts won widespread praise from local business leaders and elected officials. When Vivek Ranadive became majority owner of the Kings in July 2013, he subsequently named Granger president.
While Golden 1 Center was being built, Granger kept Kings fans and area residents updated on the developments, often leading several tours of the premises on the same day. It all led up to a glitzy arena opening-night performance by Paul McCartney last October. Following that, the arena was booked for numerous top-flight entertainers, and it hosted big crowds for the early rounds of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in March.
Granger’s announced departure in June was considered a major blow by Kings officials, but at that time, Granger expressed his interest in tackling bigger challenges, now that the Kings and Golden 1 Center were securely stationed downtown.
“I want global,” Granger said then. “I want multiple things. We all want to have an impact and do important things, right? With the arena built, this job was going to be all about selling global sponsorships, and I just think there’s one more big move in me. Plus, my girls are entering middle school, so this seems like the right time.”
In a statement accompanying the Ilitch announcement, Granger said: “I’m excited to join Ilitch Holdings at this unprecedented period of growth and opportunity. This organization knows how to do things right for fans, partners and the community, and I look forward to contributing to the dynamic, transformative and impactful work underway.”
Established in 1999, Ilitch Holdings also oversees business subsidiaries that include Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, the Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program and Champion Foods. Company co-founder Marian Ilitch owns the MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit.