Bill Davidson, Detroit Pistons owner and Ross School of Business alum, passed away last Friday at the age of 86.
Davidson died at his Bloomfield Hills home, and although the cause of death is still unknown, Davidson’s health had been poor for the last few years.
The funeral will be held at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Mich. Tuesday at noon.
University President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in an e-mail statement Saturday that Davidson will be greatly missed here at the University.
“It was always a pleasure to spend time with him, and my thoughts are with Karen and their family,” Coleman wrote in the e-mail to The Michigan Daily. “We will miss him, and we will honor his legacy as a dedicated and successful alumnus.”
As part of his legacy at the University, Davidson created the William Davidson Institute in 1992 at the Ross School of Business. The institute, according to its website, is a “non-profit, independent, research and educational institute dedicated to developing and disseminating expertise on issues affecting firms in transition and emerging market economies.”
WDI Executive Director Robert Kennedy, who worked with Davidson over the past six years, wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily Saturday that Davidson loved to help however he could, and was truly a great man.
“Bill Davidson was a business visionary, a great philanthropist and a dedicated family man,” he wrote. “He was incredibly generous to the University of Michigan.
“One of the nice things was that it was never about him. Bill always encouraged us to aim high and to accomplish great things,” he wrote. “The thing he said most often was, ‘How can I help?’ “
Davidson has given more than $55 million to the University, with $30 million going toward the founding the WDI.
Coleman wrote that Davidson’s impact on the University community will “last for generations.”
“His generosity as an adviser, a business executive and a philanthropist enhanced the teaching and research experience for U-M students and faculty,” she wrote. “He did not hesitate to share his knowledge and expertise, and our university is stronger for it.”
Davidson also gave $20 million to the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, funded the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education in New York, and purchased the Detroit Pistons for around $7 million in 1974 from Fred Zollner.
When Davidson bought the team it was considered by many to be a dying franchise. But during his time as owner, Davidson transformed the program that is today worth $500 million.
Detroit Pistons head coach Michael Curry wrote in a statement that he and the rest of the team are “deeply saddened” by the news of Davidson’s death.
“He’s been a great owner who genuinely cared for players, coaches and employees,” Curry wrote. “He will not only be remembered as a great owner but also as a person who made a difference in many people’s lives. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mrs. D and the entire Davidson family.”
In September, Davidson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Pistons President Joe Dumars said at the time that he was very pleased to have Davidson as the Pistons’ owner, the Detroit News reported.
“It was just a great, great, great comfort for me to know I had someone who was the owner of the Pistons who just epitomized everything you wanted in a great owner: incredible character, honest, straightforward,” Dumars said. “When someone is a trailblazer, a risk-taker, an innovator, that person should be recognized. If any person deserves to be in there (in the Hall of Fame), it’s this guy right here. It’s Bill Davidson.”
NBA commissioner David Stern wrote in a statement that Davidson’s impact on the sports world has become “legendary.”
“From his seven championships in three different leagues during his Hall of Fame career to his incredible business successes to his extraordinary community service, Bill set a standard for ownership in sports that will be difficult for anyone to match,” he wrote.
“The NBA family has lost an innovative thinker, a visionary businessman and most importantly, a trusted friend,” he wrote. “I want to extend our condolences to Karen and the entire Davidson family during this time. Bill’s influence on our league will never be forgotten.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.