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In 2008, Davidson was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a contributor for his successes as an owner of the Pistons and Shock. He was also an inaugural inductee into the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
At the time of his death, Davidson lived in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan with his wife, Karen. He had two children, Ethan and Marla, and three stepdaughters, including actress Elizabeth Reaser.
His combined business ventures led him to an estimated net worth of $3.5 billion, which led to Forbes ranking him as the 68th richest man in the United States.
A noted philanthropist, Davidson had given extensively to various organizations. Davidson was one of the founders of the Pistons/Palace Foundation, a charity that has donated more than $20 million in cash and merchandise since 1989. In 1995, the foundation partnered with the City of Detroit's Parks and Recreation Department to establish the Partnership to Adopt and Renovate Parks for Kids (PARK) Program, which provided restoration of Detroit parks, basketball courts, baseball diamonds, running tracks and playground equipment.
In 1992, the William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan was created at Davidson's alma mater, the Ross School of Business. A gift of $30 million was given to provide assistance in a special program to help develop market economies throughout the world. In total, Davidson's gifts to the school exceed $55 million.
In 1997, the Council of Michigan Foundations honored Davidson for his lifelong philanthropic efforts locally, nationally and internationally. He was listed as one of America's most generous donors in a New York Times article that same year.
Davidson enabled the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to make long-term touring plans both in the U.S. and internationally with a renewable $2 million donation. He has pledged to fight cancer with a gift of $1 million to support collaborative research, prevention and early detection programs in breast and pediatric cancers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Children's Research Center of Michigan.
After the Yom Kippur war, he along with fellow Detroit area philanthropist Dr. Lloyd J. Paul were flown to Israel by Prime Minister Golda Meir and given the Prime ministers club award for outstanding Philanthropic deeds towards Israel. In 1999, he gave $20 million to establish the Davidson Institute of Science Education at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. This was then the largest private donation ever given to institute, a leading international science research center and graduate school. He later added another gift of $15 million to the same Institute. In addition, Davidson endowed the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York with a $15 million gift. The excavations on the southern wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem have been named the Davidson excavations in tribute to his generous donations to the project. He also gave to the American Technion Society to establish the world's first educational institution entirely dedicated to the international management of technology-based companies at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Davidson was also a contributor to the Wexner Foundation which gives grants to graduate students of Jewish Studies. In March 2007, Davidson donated $75 million to the Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem.
Davidson has been married four times. He has two children:
In 1995, he married his fourth wife, Karen Weidman, who would convert to Judaism upon their marriage. She has three daughters from a prior marriage to John Reaser: Elizabeth Reaser, an actress with 30 movies and television shows to her credit (including the Twilight saga); Emily Reaser; and Mary Aaron (who has four children with her husband Jonathon; Jonathon is president of the William Davidson Foundation).
Davidson died on March 13, 2009 in his home at the age of 86. His health had been deteriorating for the years before his death; he had been using a wheelchair and very infrequently attended Pistons home games. The funeral was held at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, in Southfield, and Davidson was buried in the Clover Hill Park Cemetery, in Birmingham.
His widow Karen succeeded him as owner of the Pistons, and she sold all of Palace Sports and Entertainment, including the Pistons franchise, to Platinum Equity founder Tom Gores in 2011 for a reported $325 million.