AutoNation and Waste Management founder H. Wayne Huizenga dies at age 80

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March 23, 2018 2:30 pm Published by

Billionaire AutoNation, Waste Management and Blockbuster founder H. Wayne Huizenga has died at the age of 80, CNBC learned Friday.

AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said in a statement:

“Wayne was our Founder, and we would not be the company we are today without the spirit, drive, energy, and vision he gave us. Wayne is at the very core of our culture.

To me personally, today, I lost both my mentor and my best friend, H. Wayne Huizenga. Alice and I will miss the sparkle in his eye we came to love.

Wayne was one-of-a-kind whose business success is unmatched and might never be repeated. Wayne was one of the greatest entrepreneurs in the history of business, leaving a lasting mark in sports, community and business. His Legacy burns brighter than anyone.”

No details about his death were available. Born in Evergreen Park, Illinois, Huizenga founded the nation’s largest car dealership in 1995. But his legacy is much more expansive, as Huizenga presided over a business empire including garbage collection and professional sports teams.

It all began with a waste pickup service that Huizenga started at the age of 25. That business was consolidated with numerous other garbage companies to create a giant, Waste Management, which went public in 1971.

In 1987, Huizenga and a couple of other investors purchased Blockbuster and grew the late video rental company from over 10 stores to over 3,000 worldwide before it was sold to Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion. Huizenga told the Washington Post that he “cried like crazy” when he decided to sell Blockbuster. “I didn’t want to sell it. I loved that business,” he said. But Huizenga said he “could see the technology was changing.”

Blockbuster closed almost all of its stores in 2013 due to competition from rivals like Netflix. There are still a few locations in remote areas.

In the ’90s, Huizenga started AutoNation, now the largest car dealership in the U.S. Huizenga stepped down as chairman in 2002, but stayed on the company’s board of directors before leaving in 2004. “I am tired of corporate board meetings. I am an entrepreneur at heart,” he said, according to a report from Automotive News on his departure from the AutoNation board.

Around the same time he was launching AutoNation, Huizenga also co-founded extended-stay hotel chain Extended Stay America.

A frequent guest of CNBC while running his business ventures, Huizenga was also a fixture in the Florida sports world, as the former owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins, the NHL’s Florida Panthers, and the MLB’s Florida Marlins. Of Dutch descent, Huizenga was a long-time resident of Florida.

The businessman and his late wife Marti were major philanthropists to South Florida organizations, donating millions to charities such as the Boys & Girls Club of Broward County, the Humane Society of Broward County, Holy Cross Hospital and Junior Achievement. Of Dutch descent, they were longtime residents of Florida.

Huizenga had a net worth of over $2.8 billion, according to Forbes. He was No. 288 on the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans.

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