Detroit’s Dan Gilbert and the ‘savior complex’ – How do you cover a dominating figure in a struggling city without losing your skepticism?
By Anna Clark, Columbia Journalism Review
DETROIT, MI — “A man for his time and place. Love him or hate him.” That’s how Bill Shea, who covers the business of sports for Crain’s Detroit Business, describes Dan Gilbert. While he’s still probably best known nationally as the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Gilbert has a fast-rising media profile as something of a mogul in Detroit, his hometown. He is the founder and chairman* of Quicken Loans, one of the country’s largest mortgage lenders, which employs thousands of workers here. Through his umbrella of companies, he also owns a large chunk of the Motor City: 60 major downtown buildings totaling an estimated nine million square feet, all bought in less than four years. That includes the building the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News recently sold him, and the one the dailies are slated to move into this fall. An active owner, Gilbert is a force in re-designing a once-neglected downtown. But he’s not just a billionaire businessman: As chair of the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, which intends to map and remove vacant structures throughout the neighborhoods, he’s playing an increasingly large role in civic life.