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Thomas Stephen "Tom" Monaghan (born March 25, 1937 in Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker) is an entrepreneur and Catholic philanthropist who founded Domino's Pizza in 1960. He owned the Detroit Tigers from 1983-1992.

Monaghan sold Domino's in 1998 and has subsequently dedicated his time and considerable fortune to Catholic philanthropy and political causes. A champion of the pro-life cause, Monaghan has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on philanthropy and activism, which has garnered both appreciation and criticism.He and his wife, Marjorie Zybach, were married in 1962 and have four adult daughters.

Early life

After his father died when Monaghan was four years old, Monaghan's mother had difficulties raising him alone, and at age six, in 1943, Monaghan and his younger brother ended up in an orphanage until their mother collected them again in 1949. The orphanage, St. Joseph Home for Children in Jackson, Michiganmarker, was run by the Felician Sisters of Livoniamarker; the nuns there inspired his devotion to the Catholic faith and he later entered a minor seminary, with the desire to eventually become a priest. Subsequently, he was expelled from the seminary for a series of disciplinary infractions.

In 1956 Monaghan enlisted in the United States Marine Corps by mistake; he had meant to join the Army. He received an honorable discharge in 1959.

Domino's Pizza

Monaghan returned to Ann Arbor, Michiganmarker in 1959, and enrolled in the University of Michiganmarker, intending to become an architect. While still a student, he and his brother James borrowed $500 to purchase a small pizza store called DomiNick's in Ypsilanti, Michiganmarker. This business would, after a lawsuit from Domino's Sugar, grow into Domino's Pizza. Tom, after opening a further three stores, traded his brother James a Volkswagen Beetle for his half of the business. Monaghan dropped sub sandwiches from the menu and focussed on delivery to college campuses, inventing a new insulated pizza box to improve delivery. The new box, unlike its chipboard predecessors, could be stacked without squishing the pizzas inside, permitting more pizzas per trip, and keeping them warm until they arrived. Spreading his model to other college towns through a tightly-controlled franchising system, by the mid-1980s there were nearly three new Domino's franchises opening every day.

Monaghan returned to Domino's in 1991 after its fortunes worsened and helped the company recover. The National Organization for Women (NOW) called for a boycott of Domino's because of his views, but it is unclear what effect, if any, that had on the company's sales. He sold his controlling stake in Domino's Pizza in 1998 to Bain Capital, an investment firm based in Boston, for an estimated $1 billion.


The wealth Monaghan amassed from Domino's Pizza enabled a lavish lifestyle. However after reading a passage by C. S. Lewis on pride (from Mere Christianity), Monaghan divested himself of most of his more ostentatious possessions, including the Detroit Tigers in 1992. He gave up his lavish office suite at Domino's headquarters, replete with leather-tiled floors and an array of expensive Wright furnishings, turning it into a corporate reception room. He also ceased construction on a huge Wright-inspired mansion that was to be his home. (The house remains half-finished.)

Detroit Tigers

In 1983, Monaghan bought the Detroit Tigers, who won the World Series a year later. He became close to Major League Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn, who remained a close friend, business associate and participant in his many philanthropic works. Monaghan ultimately sold the Tigers to his competitor Mike Ilitch of Little Caesar's Pizza in 1992. Combining his passion for pizza and baseball, his 1986 autobiography was titled Pizza Tiger.

Frank Lloyd Wright

Monaghan is a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, and the Domino's headquarters in Ann Arbor Township, Michiganmarker strongly resembles Wright's Prairie School architecture adapted to a larger scale. He has been one of the foremost collectors of Wright artifacts, including an oak dining room table and chairs for which he paid $1.6 million. He even purchased a portion of Drummond Islandmarker in Michigan, where he created a private resort complex featuring buildings designed in the style of Wright.


Another of Monaghan's expensive passions has been automobiles, and for a time his collection included one of the world's six Bugatti Royales, for which he paid $8.1 million in 1986. He later sold the car for $8 million.

In the early 1990s he also built a mission in a Honduras mountain town, and funded and supervised the construction of a new cathedral in Managuamarker, Nicaraguamarker, after the old cathedralmarker was destroyed in a 1972 earthquakemarker.

Catholic philanthropy

Monaghan is a Catholic with a particular interest in pro-life causes and the appointment of pro-life Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. He established or helped establish a number of Catholic organizations and Catholic educational establishments. In 1987 Monaghan received Holy Communion from Pope John Paul II in his private papal chapel at the Vatican. The orchestral Ave Maria Mass, by composer Stephen Edwards, was commissioned by Monaghan "to express in music the spiritual commitment behind the founding of Ave Maria College and Ave Maria School of Law." This mass has now been dedicated by the composer to the victims of September 11. Monaghan publicly promotes daily attendance at Mass, daily recitation of the rosary and frequent sacramental confession. He has also committed to spending what remains of his $1 billion fortune on philanthropic endeavors.

Catholic organizations

In 1983 he established the Mater Christi Foundation, today known as the Ave Maria Foundation, to focus on Catholic education, Catholic media, community projects and other Catholic charities. In 1987 he helped form Legatus, an organization of Catholic business leaders to promote the ideals of the Catholic Church in society. The name was taken from the Latin word for commander of a legion. Legatus was to serve as a spiritual resource and social community for "top-ranking Catholic business leaders".

His 1987 Vatican visit moved him so much he returned to the United States committed to promoting the Catholic faith. He soon established Ave Maria Radio, the Ave Maria List pro-life political action committee, and the Thomas More Law Center, a public interest law firm focused on defending the rights of Christians. The foundation donates resources to help alleviate poverty in Central and South America. In addition, his foundation established the Spiritus Sanctus Academies. These elementary schools are administered by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. This order of teaching sisters has benefited from Monaghan's philanthropy. In 10 years, it has grown rapidly, from 4 to 70 nuns.

The Ave Maria Foundation has subsequently fine-tuned its focus to higher education, and has established both a university and a law school. Along with that change in focus, many of the other non-profit entities that the Ave Maria Foundation established have become independent or are in the process of being weaned from Ave Maria Foundation grants. This narrowing of focus and the recent geographic re-alignment to Florida (see below) have ignited no small amount of controversy among those who share his religious convictions.

Ave Maria School of Law

The Ave Maria School of Law, previously located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, opened its doors in 2000, and received full accreditation from the American Bar Association in 2005. The school was a dream of several professors from the University of Detroit Mercymarker, who publicly left that institution when it allowed several pro-choice members of the Michigan Supreme Court to appear at the school's annual "Red Mass." Professors Stephen Safranek, Mollie Murphy, Richard Myers and Joseph Falvey, setting out to form a new orthodox Catholic law school, presented their idea to Monaghan (who had previously been a strong supporter of opening a new law school at Franciscan University) to provide significant funding through his Ave Maria Foundation. Together they enlisted Bernard Dobranski, Dean at The Catholic University of Americamarker's law school and former Dean of Detroit Mercy's Law School, to lead up the new school as dean. Monaghan served as president of the school's Board of Governors.

Faculty members have included conservative legal scholar and Supreme Court nominee Judge Robert Bork. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia assisted in developing the school's curriculum, and the school's first annual Ave Maria Lecture was presented by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1999. The school's stated goal is to educate competent moral attorneys who will influence all aspects of the legal profession and advance natural law theory. The Ave Maria Law School graduated its last Michigan class in Spring of 2009 and relocated to Naples, Florida permanently immediately thereafter.

Ave Maria College

As a step to fulfilling his dream of creating a new Catholic university, Monaghan founded Ave Maria College in Ypsilanti, Michigan. In various attempts to accelerate accreditation, Monaghan acquired St. Mary's College of Orchard Lake and a campus in Nicaragua, renamed Ave Maria College of the Americas.

Due to lack of funding, the college, against faculty and student protests, closed in 2007. Alternative funding was not secured to prevent the school's closure. St. Mary's College was sold and is now under the auspices of nearby Madonna University.

Ave Maria University, Florida

In early 2002 Monaghan sought to establish the Ave Maria University in Ann Arbor, at Domino's Farms, the large corporate office park that he owned and leased to Domino's Pizza. The plans included a 250-foot crucifix - taller than the Statue of Libertymarker. Local officials refused to approve the zoning change, forcing him to look elsewhere for a site. Eventually community leaders in Collier County, Florida, offered him a large undeveloped tract of land thirty miles east of Naples, Floridamarker to develop the university.

In February 2006, ground was broken for the new Catholic university and town, Ave Maria, Floridamarker. A joint venture, in which Monaghan is a 50% partner with developer Barron Collier, controls all non-university real estate in the town, and plans to build 11,000 homes and several business districts. Pulte Homes has been signed up to build most of the private homes. Monaghan said in 2005 that any town retailers would not be allowed to sell contraceptives or pornography, a statement which drew legal and moral criticism from the ACLU. Threatened with lawsuits, Monaghan and the developers went on a national PR campaign in March 2007 to retract the notion that Catholic doctrine could ever be enforced as law. Defenders of Wildlife has also challenged the development, stating it is destroying habitat of the endangered Florida Panther.

Ave Maria Mutual Funds

Monaghan helped to establish the Ave Maria Mutual Funds by asking friend George P. Schwartz of Schwartz Investment Counsel, Inc. to launch the Ave Maria Catholic Values Fund in May 2001. There are now five Ave Maria Mutual Funds. They are described as targeted at investors seeking to place their money in companies whose operations are in keeping with the core teachings of the Catholic Church. The fund calls their shareholders "morally responsible investors." The funds are open to individual investors with a $1,000 minimum investment.

Monaghan is a member of the Catholic Advisory Board. The board sets the religious criteria that screen companies before the funds will invest in them. Involvement with contraception, non-marital partner employee benefits, pornography, and abortion are some issues that disqualify a company from the fund. Lou Holtz, Larry Kudlow, Michael Novak, Phyllis Schlafly and Paul Roney are the other members of the Funds' Catholic Advisory Board. Cardinal Maida (of Detroit) is the board's ecclesiastic advisor.

See also


  1. Mariah Blake, AlterNet/Washington Monthly, 8 September 2009, How an Eccentric Right-Wing Pizza Billionaire's Attempt to Build Catholic Law School Ended in Disaster
  2. Boyer, Peter J., "The Deliverer", The New Yorker, February 19, 2007, abstract
  3. [1]
  4. Ave Maria Mass at
  5. The Ave Maria Foundation.
  6. About Legatus.
  7. Ave Maria Radio = WDEO .
  8. Ave Maria List.
  9. The Thomas More Law Center
  10. The Spiritus Sanctus Academies.
  11. The Dominican Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.
  12. The Ave Maria School of Law.
  13. Ave Maria College.
  14. Ave Maria University.
  15. Ave Maria, Florida.
  16. " Halfway to Heaven: A Catholic millionaire's dream town draws fire", Newsweek, February 27, 2006.

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