Businessman Ray Huizenga Passes Away
Huizenga was awarded with many distinctions throughout his life, such as Financial World Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year honor in 1989. Additionally, he donated generously to local schools and colleges.
As the founder of both professional hockey and baseball teams in South Florida – Florida Panthers and Miami Marlins respectively – as well as owning AutoNation car dealership chain, he made great contributions to South Florida culture.
Early Life and Education
Huizenga’s parents divorced when he was still young, prompting him to drive trucks and pump gas as a source of family expenses. After briefly enrolling at Calvin College in Michigan – before dropping out entirely in favor of helping out a friend at their garbage collection business in Pompano Beach Florida for two years until eventually founding Southern Sanitation Service as a solo entity.
He expanded Waste Management Inc. by purchasing over 100 small garbage hauling firms and consolidating them into one large operation.
Huizenga was an exceptional community supporter, offering his generous donations to organizations like Broward Performing Arts Center and Nova Southeastern University Davie’s business school where his name can be seen proudly displayed. He leaves behind his wife Marti, children Ray, Pamela and Wayne Jr. as well as 11 grandchildren.
After his parents divorced he began contributing financially by driving trucks and pumping gas. While still in his teens he began helping out a friend’s garbage collection company before founding Southern Sanitation Service within two years; within that period it grew into one of the country’s premier waste disposal firms.
Huizenga excelled at developing service industries with steady income sources like garbage collection, auto dealerships and hotels. He achieved major success by purchasing some Blockbuster Video stores in 1987 and turning them into the country’s top movie-rental chain.
Huizenga was well known as both an owner of professional sports teams (Dolphins, Panthers and Marlins) as well as an active supporter of local causes and philanthropy. Five times recipient of Financial World CEO of the Year award!
Achievement and Honors
Huizenga was known for his business acumen and humorous sense of wit during his tenure as the owner of three major sports franchises. On Thursday, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts a memorial service for him was held, attended by Governor Rick Scott, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell, as well as former Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula.
Huizenga and his wife Marti were known to give generously to many charities such as Junior Achievement of South Florida, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Kids in Distress and Humane Society. Additionally, they funded scholarships throughout Florida and received recognition of their overcoming adversity with awards like Horatio Alger Award in recognition of this work and being named five time recipient of Financial World magazine’s CEO of the Year award and Ernst & Young ‘World Entrepreneur of the Year.
Huizenga (pronounced HIGH-zing-ah), was an influential college dropout from suburban Chicago who created an expansive business empire including Blockbuster Entertainment and AutoNation. A notable philanthropist in Broward County, Nova Southeastern University named their business school after him as well.
He owned three professional sports franchises in Miami, including the Dolphins and Marlins. Additionally, he held onto Florida Panthers until selling them due to rising NHL player salaries and decreasing stock prices of their public company.
In 2000, he was honored with induction into the Broward County Sports Hall of Fame alongside boxer Rocky Marciano and tennis champion Chris Evert. Along with Marti, they made contributions to several local charities like American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs and Broward County Performing Arts Center Authority.
Huizenga first got his start in business by breaking into the garbage industry. “Garbage is an ideal business to get into,” he once noted, noting its need for punctuality and prompt collection of trash. By applying his sharp business sense he managed to turn waste into money while building Blockbuster Entertainment into the leading movie-rental chain and AutoNation into one of America’s premier automotive superstores. Additionally, Huizenga introduced Major League Baseball with his ownership of Miami Marlins and National Hockey League with Florida Panthers before retiring them all as founder and chief executive officer until 1998.
After retiring from the garbage business in 1984 with $100 million in stock, he found sitting idle difficult. Instead, he began investing in local businesses such as hotels, warehouses, pest control services and lawn-care businesses.