Detroit businessman Don Barden, one of Detroit's business elite who was the first African American to own a Las Vegas casino and the first to own a major cable TV franchise, has died.
Barden had been fighting lung cancer and died early this morning at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit. He was 67.
In his storied career, Barden partnered with the rich and famous, including a failed bid in the late 1990s to open a $1 billion theme park resort in Detroit with megastar Michael Jackson in exchange for a city casino license.
Barden built homes in Detroit and a business in Namibia and had been named by Ebony magazine, the TBS cable network, Black Entertainment Television and Black Enterprise magazine as a top national business leader. Barden's been showered with awards, most recently a lifetime achievement award from the Michigan Chronicle newspaper and an Award of Excellence from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund in 2006.
Barden was known for throwing lavish parties, many at Detroit's Roostertail club. During the Super Bowl in 2006 in Detroit, he hosted a three-day party that included singers Smokey Robinson, Little Richard and Chaka Khan.
He started Barden Cablevision and 1979 and built it into one of the nation's biggest black-owned businesses, selling it in 1994 to Comcast. In 2001 he became the first black person to own a Las Vegas Casino.
Barden's casino empire included the Majestic Star company, operator of two casino boats in Gary, Ind., and Fitzgerald casinos in Las Vegas, Tunica, Miss., and Black Hawk, Colo, but last year the company filed for bankruptcy that apparently has yet to be resolved.