The Quicken Loans founder humbly accepted the award, crediting his team and family for stepping in during his absence.
Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert spoke Friday, Feb. 21 at Crain’s Annual Newsmaker of the Year luncheon at Detroit’s MGM Grand casino. This was Gilbert’s first time addressing the public since suffering from an ischemic stroke nine months ago.
The 58-year-old Detroit entrepreneur was inaugurated as the first member of Crain’s Newsmaker Hall of Fame.
“A leader’s job is not to create more followers — a leader’s job is to create more leaders,” Gilbert said. “I think we had the honor of doing that in our family of companies, which is why it could continue in my absence.”
Gilbert spoke for 20 minutes in a steady, calm tone as he credited Farner and his executives for stepping up during his leave. The crowd applauded heavily as he stepped onto the podium for the first time.
Earlier this week, Crain’s reporter Chad Livengood detailed Gilbert’s eight months at a rehabilitation facility in Chicago and continued physical and occupational therapy at home. Livengood’s interview indicated Gilbert’s speech is clear, yet he is still experiencing paralysis on his left side.
Gilbert, who has contributed millions of dollars toward Detroit’s resurgence and added nearly 4,000 jobs during his years of entrepreneurship, is now back at work about two days per week. He is using a wheelchair and has a service dog in tow.
“The award is really for everyone, not just the guy that happens to be the leader of the food chain,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert noted changes to Detroit that began twelve years ago under his leadership, emphasizing his vision for not just building up the city, but re-envisioning a culture of risk-taking and big thinking.
He added that when investing any of his assets, he always has the mindset of “what’s best for the city of Detroit.”
Near the end of his speech, he emphasized the importance of building relationships in his field and in life.
“Every single day I go forward I just realize how important relationships are, and some of these things that look like just a ‘hello’ to someone can turn into a big deal,” he said. “I think we need to continue down that mind-frame and culture of reaching out of helping each other.”
Real-estate developer and philanthropist Stephen Ross was also honored as Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year and is partnering with Gilbert on the University of Michigan “Innovation Center” slated for downtown Detroit.