Pistons Owner Davidson Dies

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Detroit Pistons owner, businessman and philanthropist William Davidson has died. He was 86.
Services are scheduled for noon Tuesday at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield, Mich., according to the Ira Kaufman Chapel Funeral Home.
A cause and location of death were not immediately known.
Davidson was chairman and president of Guardian Industries Corp., a major manufacturer of glass products for the construction and automotive industries and fiberglass insulation products.
He also owned the NHL's Tampa Bay Lightning and WNBA's Detroit Shock, as well as Palace Sports & Entertainment, comprising The Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre.
Forbes magazine had ranked the Bloomfield Hills billionaire as one of the richest people in Michigan, tied for 68th in the country.
Nicknamed "Mr. D" and occasionally spotted court side at Pistons' home games, Davidson refused to succumb to the spotlight. He granted only a handful of brief interviews and without apologies turned down requests for dozens more while three of his pro sports teams were winning league championships over an 8-month span in 2003 and 2004.
"I just don't want to be a public figure," he told The Associated Press in 2004. "I don't see any point in it."
Davidson was as committed a philanthropist as he was a businessman, giving away more than $80 million in the 1990s alone.
Spurned in his bids to buy the NFL's Detroit Lions and NHL's Detroit Red Wings, Davidson became majority owner of the Pistons in 1974 and acquired the Lightning in 1999, spending lavishly on both teams.
Davidson bought Roundball One for the Pistons, making them the first pro sports team with their own airplane. He built a state-of-the-art practice facility for the club, and used it himself to work out.
The Palace, located less than a half-mile from Guardian Industries headquarters, was built for $90 million -- all of it Davidson's money -- and won instant acclaim as a sports and entertainment venue when it opened in 1988.
The Lightning and the Pistons won the 2003-04 NHL and NBA titles eight days apart in June 2004, making Davidson the first owner of concurrent champions in major North American team sports.
The Shock won the WNBA championship eight months earlier, having risen from last place and the threat of folding in 2002 to first place and league-leading crowds the following year. The Shock also won the league championship in 2006.
Davidson was born Dec. 5, 1922 in Detroit. He ran track at Michigan, played football in the Navy during World War II and was an inaugural inductee into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Davidson earned a law degree from Wayne State University in 1949. He practiced law for three years before taking over a wholesale drug company and rescuing it from bankruptcy. He did likewise with a surgical supply company and then with his family's Guardian Glass Co., Guardian Industries' predecessor.
In 1997, the Council of Michigan Foundations honored Davidson for his lifelong philanthropic efforts locally, nationally and internationally. The honor reflected an ethic fostered by his mother when he was a child.
"For any successful organization or business, you have to have integrity," Davidson told The AP. "And you have to make everything as straightforward as you can make it."


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