H. Wayne Huizenga, the founder of Waste Management Inc., died at age 80 on March 22 at his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home after succumbing to "a decades-long battle with cancer," Bob Henninger, executive vice president at Huizenga Holdings, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
Huizenga took a risk in 1968, when he conceived Waste Management at the age of 25 with a single garbage truck. But that risk quickly turned into a successful move, as Waste Management became a Fortune 500 company and the largest waste disposal company in the U.S.
“We were deeply saddened to hear the news of Wayne Huizenga’s passing today. As a founder of our company, he was greatly admired for his visionary spirit, entrepreneurial leadership and ‘roll up your sleeves’ work ethic,” said Jim Fish, president and CEO of Waste Management, in a statement. “While he and I never met, Wayne is a true legend at Waste Management, known for waking up at 2:30 in the morning to drive a truck and then knocking on doors in the afternoon to introduce himself to current and new customers. His legacy is a gift to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Huizenga family on the passing of their patriarch and our friend and founder, Wayne Huizenga.”
After completing 133 acquisitions of small haulers and letting Waste Management go public in the early 1970s, Huizenga teamed up with a group of other investors to found Blockbuster in 1985. Huizenga and the investors ended up growing the video rental company from about 10 stores to more than 3,000 stores worldwide. The company had a good run and was eventually sold to Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion. In 2013, Blockbuster closed almost all of its stores, but a few locations in remote areas remain open.
Huizenga’s career didn’t stop there. He re-entered the waste management industry by serving as chairman of Republic Services, and in the 1990s, he launched AutoNation, the first nationwide auto dealer in the U.S., which also became a Fortune 500 company.
He also entered the Florida sports world, serving as the founding owner of the Florida Marlins, the baseball team, and the Florida Panthers, the hockey team.
In 1994, he purchased the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise and its stadium for $168 million, but he eventually sold all three teams by 2009. He also sold the Marlins in 1999 and the Panthers in 2001.
Throughout his career, Huizenga earned many awards and honors, including receiving Financial World magazine’s “CEO of the Year” award five times and being named as Ernst & Young “2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.”
In addition, Huizenga inspired a number of individuals and companies within the waste and recycling industry, the sports industry and the automobile industry, which are paying tribute to him via social media posts, television specials, articles and more.