Richard M. DeVos Biography

(Co-Founder of Amway)

Birthday: March 4, 1926 (Pisces)

Born In: Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States

Richard Marvin DeVos Sr. was an American businessman and philanthropist who co-founded the direct selling product empire, Amway, along with his school-time buddy, Jay Van Andel. Having tried his hand at several businesses, before earning his first million in the home care, beauty, and health industry, he always believed that his hard work would pay off one day. And it certainly did. He became a billionaire who was listed as the 60th wealthiest person in the United States by Forbes magazine in 2012, with a net worth estimate of $5.4 billion as of 2018. Being the ardent sports enthusiast that he was, Richard owned several hockey franchises (before the hockey league got scrapped). He also purchased the Orlando Magic, an NBA franchise. He believed in having strong family roots and would make every effort to spend enough time with his children, grandchildren and eventually with his great grandchildren. He was a heart-transplant survivor and authored several books that explain his work philosophy, life-journey and his memoirs. He along with his wife, created a foundation for philanthropic causes and they donated heavily to the US Republican party’s conservative causes as well.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Richard Marvin DeVos Sr.

Died At Age: 92


Spouse/Ex-: Helen Van Wesep (m. 1953)

father: Simon Cornelius DeVos

mother: Ethel Ruth DeVos

children: Cheri, Dan, Dick, Doug

Born Country: United States

Billionaires CEOs

Died on: September 6, 2018

place of death: Ada Township, Michigan, United States

Notable Alumni: Calvin University

City: Grand Rapids, Michigan

U.S. State: Michigan

More Facts

education: Calvin University

Childhood & Early Life
Richard M. DeVos was born on the 4 March 1926, to Dutch immigrants Simon C. DeVos, an electrician and Ethel Ruth, in a city called Grand Rapids in Michigan.
He studied at the Grand Rapids Christian High School and this is where he met his friend and future business partner Jay Van Andel.
He attended Calvin College and upon graduating, served in the US Army Air Corps during the Second World War.
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Richard M. Devos worked on several business ideas with Jay Van Andel after they returned to civilian life post the war. They worked on an airplane charter business, a sailing venture and even tried to run a hamburger stand, before they were introduced to Nutrilite.
In 1949, they formed a business called Ja-Ri, naming it after their initials, which they turned into a dealership for Nutrilite Products, after attending a company seminar on direct sales success, in Chicago.
They continued to run the dealership and by 1958, the duo had managed to build a network of more than five thousand distributors.
When Nutrilite went belly up, they decided to apply the same direct sales technique to their own venture. To that effect, they created Amway (short for American Way Association) in April 1959 to showcase their product portfolio.
They bought the manufacturing and distribution rights for Frisk, an organic cleaner, developed by an Ohio scientist and renamed it as Liquid Organic Cleaner or LOC. This was to be Amway’s first product.
They went on to create different corporations like Amway Services, Amway Sales, and Amway Manufacturing to cater to the various needs of the company, which ultimately merged into one entity; the Amway Corporation in 1964.
Under the leadership of Jay and Richard, Amway expanded into international markets such as Australia and Europe and some parts in Asia in the 1970s. By the next two decades, the company had penetrated into markets of Japan, Latin America, Thailand, China, Africa, and India.
Meanwhile, Amway had bought Nutrilite’s controlling shares in 1972 and full ownership of the company by 1994.
In 1999, they created a company Alticor, which would act as the parent firm to all their businesses.
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They further expanded into Ukraine (2003), Russia (2005) and Vietnam (2008).
They bought Gurwitch Products, a cosmetics and skincare manufacturer & marketer from Neiman Marcus in 2006 and owned it till 2016.
Although Amway has come under scrutiny and criticism by several government organizations, the conglomerate recorded sales of $8.8 billion in 2018. The company was at number 42 on the Forbes 2018 list of United States’ largest privately owned companies and was the number one company on the 2018 list of Direct Selling News Global 100.
Being interested in sports, Robert invested $85 million in buying the National Basketball Association (NBA) franchise Orlando Magic in 1991.
He also owned three International Hockey League (IHL) franchises: Kansas City Blades, Orlando Solar Bears and Grand Rapids Griffins, till the league dissolved in 2001, and two of the team shut down. The Griffins are a part of American Hockey League now and are owned by Richard’s son Dan.
Richard M. DeVos has written few books in his time. His first book ‘Believe’, published in 1975 which was co-written by Charles Paul Conn, documents his journey of becoming a successful businessman.
His second book was ‘Compassionate Capitalism’ that released in 1993, then in 2000 came ‘Hope From My Heart: Ten Lessons For Life’ which is a book that depicts his feelings post his heart transplant surgery that he underwent in 1997, and in 2014, he published his autobiography ‘Simply Rich’.
Awards & Achievements
In 2006, Richard and his wife, Helen, were recognized for their work and received the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership. They donated the award money to Michigan’s local organizations that were working towards helping people.
Family & Personal Life
Richard M. DeVos married Helen Van Wesep on 7 February 1953 and the couple had four children; three sons – Richard Jr. or Dick DeVos, born in 1955, Dan DeVos born in 1959 and Doug DeVos born in 1964, and a daughter Suzanne ‘Cheri’ DeVos.
Dick DeVos was the President of Amway from the year 1993 to 2002, he is married to Betsy DeVos, the US Secretary of Education. While Dan is a sports executive and an entrepreneur, Doug is the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors at Amway along with Steve Van Andel.
Richard M. DeVos passed away on the 6 September 2018, at his Ada home from complications developed due to an infection in his body. He was 92-years old at the time. It was within a year of his wife’s demise on 18 October 2017.
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