Childhood & Early Life
Huizenga was born Harry Wayne Huizenga on December 29, 1937, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, into a family of garbage transporters. He had a younger sister, Bonnie.
Huizenga attended 'Timothy Christian School' and resumed his high school at 'Pine Crest School' after his family moved to Fort Lauderdale area in Florida in early 1953. He was a member of the 'Pine Crest' football team and senior class treasurer. He graduated high school in 1956.
Huizenga went to 'Calvin College' in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but dropped out while he was in his sophomore year. He then took up low-wage jobs, which he continued for the next five years. In September 1959, Huizenga had a six-month stint (full-time service) in the army reserves.
Huizenga's parents divorced when he was still attending school. He lived with his mother and drove a truck and pumped gas to help with expenses. After he dropped out, Huizenga began working at a garbage collection company owned by his friend's family.
Within two years, Huizenga purchased a truck and branched out on his own, which eventually grew into 'Waste Management Inc.' (WMI).
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In 1962, Huizenga started the 'Southern Sanitation Service' in Fort Lauderdale. After getting gaining experience in the business, he created 'Waste Management, Inc.' in 1968. Huizenga acquired over 100 small-time regional independent garbage hauling companies; until WMI went public in 1972. WMI became the largest waste disposal company in the U.S. by the early 1980s.
In 1984, Huizenga left the company but continued acquiring companies, including suppliers of transportable toilets and water bottles for home coolers.
In an attempt to enter the video rental industry, Huizenga acquired several stores of 'Blockbuster Videos,' a home movie, and video-game rental service provider, in 1987. Like WMI, he took the company public in 1989 and it became the leading movie-rental chain in the US by 1994.
In 1995, Huizenga became the chairman of the board of 'Republic Industries,' a waste disposal firm formed in 1981. The firm eventually grew to become the third-largest waste management company in the U.S. prior to merging with WMI.
Huizenga formed 'AutoNation,' in 1996, which eventually became the largest automotive dealer in the country. Next, he set up 'Extended Stay America' that operates an extended-stay hotel chain.
In 1996, Huizenga started the 'Floridian Golf & Yacht Club' in West Palm Beach.
In 1990, he purchased a 15% stake in 'Miami Dolphins' of the NFL and its stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Huizenga obtained full ownership in 1994 after its founding owner, Joe Robbie, died. He sold the naming rights to 'Fruit of the Loom' brand, which has been renamed many times since then.
Huizenga sold half the stakes of the team and that of the stadium to Stephen M. Ross, chairman of 'The Related Companies' in 2008. However, he remained the managing general partner of the 'Miami Dolphins' franchise until January 2009.
In 1993, Huizenga founded and owned the professional baseball team 'Florida Marlins,' and professional ice hockey team, 'Florida Panthers.' To air his teams' games in the region, he purchased the 'SportsChannel Florida' (now 'Fox Sports Florida') in 1996. Marlins made its first playoff debut in the 1997 season and won the 'World Series.'
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Huizenga operated the 'Panthers' as a public holding company and bought many real estate properties under 'Panthers Holding Group.' Using the team's stock, he bought part-ownership of two resort hotels. Huizenga sold the team in 2001, to pharmaceutical businessman Alan Cohen and former NFL quarterback, Bernie Kosar.
In November 2004, Huizenga and Steve Berrard, former CEO of 'Blockbuster Video' and 'AutoNation,' bought the sanitation company 'Swisher Hygiene Inc.' from its owner, Patrick Swisher.
In 1992, the 'Horatio Alger Association' acknowledged Huizenga's funding of scholarships throughout Florida. He received the 'Norman Vincent Peale Award' in 2008.
Huizenga has been named "CEO of the Year" by 'Financial World Magazine' five times. He was 'Ernst & Young' 2004 'U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year' and 'World Entrepreneur of the Year' in 2005.
In 2012, the 'Southeast 9th Street' in the Rio in Vista neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale was renamed to 'Wayne Huizenga Blvd.'
A 1994 article of 'Miami New Times' reported that Huizenga was accused of an assault case and forcibly influencing the sales prospect who refused to do business with him. The case was declared against him.
Huizenga was accused of association with organized crime, physical and emotional abuse of his wife, unfair competition practices, illegal political contributions, and disregard for environmental laws.
Family, Personal Life, & Death
Huizenga was of Dutch descent. His father, Gerrit Harry Huizenga, was a cabinet maker while mother, Jean Huizenga, was a home decorator. His grandfather, Harm Huizenga, owned the 'Huizenga & Sons Scavenger Co.' in suburban Chicago in 1894. Huizenga's parents were strict Dutch Reformed Christians.
He got married to Joyce Vander Wagen on September 10, 1960, but the couple divorced in 1966. The two had known each other since his early years in 'Evergreen Park.' Huizenga had two children with his first wife: Wayne Jr. and Scott from Wagen.
Thereafter Huizenga married San Antonio native Martha Jean "Marti" Goldsby in April 1972. She was a secretary and clerk in one of his businesses. Huizenga later adopted her son, Robert Ray, and daughter, Pamela. Goldsby died of cancer, on January 3, 2017.
Huizenga served on the board of the 'Laureus Foundation.' He also set up the 'Huizenga Family Foundation.'
In 2004, Huizenga bought a private luxury yacht from the Australian professional golfer Greg Norman, which he had modified to accommodate a helipad for a 12-seat helicopter. In August 2004, 'Power & Motoryacht' ranked the yacht as the 43rd-longest in the world.
On March 22, 2018, Huizenga died of cancer at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.