Entrepreneur, NBA Champion

Having left the basketball court for the boardroom, Earvin “Magic” Johnson has successfully parlayed his skills and tenacity from the court into the business world as Chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises (MJE). MJE provides high-quality products and services that focus primarily on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities. 

Still a commanding presence in popular culture, Johnson made history in 2012 when he became co-owner of MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers. He also co-owns the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, Major League Soccer’s Los Angeles Football Club, and eSports franchise Team Liquid. He continues to expand his influence through his many businesses that include: EquiTrust Life Insurance Company, and SodexoMAGIC, a food service and facilities management company. 

The Lansing native is constantly evolving and remaining relevant in a dynamic digital age by broadening his scope into infrastructure and technology. Through a newly formed fund, Johnson is investing millions of dollars on infrastructure improvement in the United States. He is also one of the leading investors in a number of minority-owned technology companies that include Uncharted Power, an award-winning power and data infrastructure technology company; ShotTracker, a company that makes wearable technology for basketball players that helps track player and ball movement; Jopwell, a diversity and hiring recruiting platform; Walker & Co Brands, a company that develops health and beauty products for people of color; and MiTú, the Latino-fueled media brand and digital network that connects thousands of Latin content creators with viewers around the world. 


International Change Agent

Early on in my career, when my company was in the aftermath of a $5B acquisition, I almost quit. Fueled by frustration and stress, I found myself on the precipice of walking out of the office and never coming back. Had I done so, I would have become another statistic. Yet another African-American female departed from a STEM-driven industry. Top talent voluntarily resigning during a time of significant organizational shift. Another change victim.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I woke up one day and decided to view those feelings as a signal that I was sitting in a moment of opportunity. An opportunity to transform that chemistry, that feeling into something better. To choose every day to do something, say something, behave in some way that would move the needle of my work experience towards a better feeling. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was cultivating a teachable strategy to inspire anyone to become enthusiastic about change, to find their unique power of resilience during turbulent times.

Today, I help organizations disrupt ‘change as usual’. Through a practical and repeatable framework,

I show them how they can transform their culture from surviving change to growing through change.


President, Penske Corporation

Bud Denker is President of Penske Corporation, a global transportation services company. Penske Corporation manages businesses with consolidated revenues of more than $40 billion, operating in over 3,200 locations and employing more than 70,000 people worldwide. Denker also serves as Executive Vice President, Human Resources for Penske Automotive Group, overseeing the organization’s associates across its 350 globally-located automotive dealerships and heavy-duty truck locations. In addition, Denker serves in other roles within Penske Corporation including Executive Vice President of Team Penske, with teams currently competing in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, the NASCAR Cup Series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the World Endurance Championship.

Denker also serves as Chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, which generates over $50 million in total spending annually in the metro Detroit region, while showcasing the city to a worldwide audience. Denker also helped lead the effort to bring the event back to its original home on the Streets of Downtown Detroit, beginning in 2023.

Throughout Denker’s business career, he has been deeply involved in leading the efforts to support his community at the local, city and state levels.

Denker remains engaged in many Detroit-based organizations including the Belle Isle Park Advisory Committee, and he serves on the executive boards of The Parade Company, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Detroit Partnership and the CEO Group.


Stories and Sounds of Motown
Motown Museum Chairwoman and CEO
Granddaughter of the “Mother of Motown” Esther Gordy

As entrepreneurs, we clearly understand the delicate balance between honoring our roots and embracing change and innovation. There is no arguing that our past informs our future.

When you think of Detroit you think of cars and Motown. Motown and cars. If you attend XCentric 2023 you will have a unique opportunity to hear from a Motown family member who lives and breathes this balance every day. Her vision for preserving rich history while also embracing the future will both move you and inspire you.

As Chairwoman and CEO of Motown Museum, Robin Terry is carrying the torch for one of Detroit’s most entrepreneurial families. Her grandmother, the late Esther Gordy Edwards, loaned her younger brother $800 in 1959 to start Motown Records. In 1985 she co-founded Motown Museum tell the legendary story of Motown Records.

Robin has devoted the past two decades to furthering her grandmother’s legacy. She will share stories about entrepreneurship, identifying and nurturing talent, protecting a legacy, transforming a community and inspiring a bright and sustainable future. Motown Museum is currently in the process of raising funds for a $50 million expansion that will create a world-class entertainment and education destination that will inspire talent, entrepreneurship and future generations across the globe.


President and CEO, Ilitch Holdings, Inc.

As president and chief executive officer of Ilitch Holdings, Inc., Christopher Ilitch leads the Ilitch companies, spanning some of the world’s best-known brands in food, sports and entertainment, and real estate development. Together, these businesses employ thousands of people, positively transform communities through entrepreneurship and philanthropy, and create unforgettable moments that bring individuals, families, and fans together.

Over his 34-year career, Christopher has remained steadfast in his vision that all Ilitch companies have a powerful capacity to improve lives. “We’re proud to create opportunities for people across the globe through meaningful careers, small business ownership, community-minded development, and products and services that bring people joy.”

True to Mike and Marian Ilitch’s entrepreneurial spirit that serves as the foundation of the organization, Christopher leads with a focus on planning, innovation, and the pursuit of new opportunities. This approach has resulted in the companies’ revenue nearly quadrupling since he became CEO in 2004, outperforming the S&P 500 over the same time.

In addition to serving as president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings, Christopher holds positions at each of the Ilitch companies, including as chairman and CEO of the Detroit Tigers, as governor, president and CEO of the Detroit Red Wings, and as a member of MotorCity Casino Hotel’s management committee. Highlights and accomplishments at the Ilitch companies since Christopher became CEO of Ilitch Holdings in 2004.


Co-founder and CEO of Common Citizen

Co-founder and CEO of Common Citizen, Michael Elias is a prominent figure in Michigan’s cannabis sector. His single-state vertically integrated company, Common Citizen, boasts a strong wholesale and retail presence, securing a significant portion of Michigan’s $3 billion cannabis market—the largest in the nation. The company exclusively owns, licenses, manufactures, and distributes top brands including Common Citizen, Mike Tyson 2.0, Wana, Kiva, Sherbinski, and High Life Farms through its ‘LIV’ branded retail channels. Prior to his cannabis endeavors, Michael, a G.E. trained process engineer, committed two decades to healthcare, undertaking roles such as Chief Transformation Officer, Director of Quality, and Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt, while also establishing a global consultancy centered on healthcare transformations.


Emcee and Detroit’s Chief Storyteller

The tale of an unconventional storyteller is bound to be.. well.. a little unconventional. From college dropout to Chief Storyteller of Detroit (the city he was born and raised in), Eric Thomas has yet to follow the typical path.

Former Chief Storyteller for the City of Detroit (a Mayor Appointee position in the city government focused on content, digital, and brand), a TEDx Speaker, entrepreneur, published writer, narrative strategist, and a Crain’s 20 in their 20’s Awardee.

Leading up to his mayoral appointment, he worked with dozens of businesses and organizations to develop their brands, connect to their markets, and tell their stories as co-founder of Saga, the storytelling agency. The agency serviced solopreneurs, small businesses, museums, nonprofits, corporations, and municipalities. This diverse array of clients helped Eric develop an understanding of how stories can work to scale, build, and maintain an audience.

Additionally, his writing has appeared in the Financial Times, Detroit Free Press, and Hour Magazine. Excerpts from his work and speaking have been cited in the New York Times, AdWeek, and Economist, and he has a few of the most-read LinkedIn Blogs on the platform on topics ranging from Media and Marketing to Diversity and Economic Development in underserved communities.

From community colleges to MIT, Digital Conferences to regional chambers, intimate workshops to corporate retreats – the goal has been the same: Connect the big picture to the human experience.

Once described as “Seth Godin meets Cornel West with a little P.T. Barnum thrown in for showmanship” by Jeff Degraff, Dean of Innovation for the University of Michigan, you can be sure that any time Eric engages with your organization, his unique blend of cultural insight, historical context, and future-focused storytelling will captivate, inspire, and most importantly, evolve an audience’s perspective.


Please support our sponsors

EO XCentric: October 2-4, 2023