Harry Wayne Huizenga (/haɪˈzɛŋɡə/, born December 29, 1937) is an American businessman and entrepreneur. He has been involved in the founding of three Fortune 500 corporations and is responsible for six New York Stock Exchange listed companies. He has also been an owner of three top tier professional sports franchises.
H. Wayne Huizenga is of Dutch descent. His parents, Gerrit Harry and Jean Huizenga, were both products of the Chicago Dutch community. Wayne was born at Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, on December 29, 1937. He has one sister, Bonnie, who is five years younger. He attended Timothy Christian School until his mid-teens. In early 1953, the Huizenga family moved to Florida and settled in the Fort Lauderdale area.
The remainder of his high school years were spent at Pine Crest School, where he was a member of the football team and was class treasurer. After high school graduation he moved back to Chicago where most of his friends, grandparents and other relatives still lived. In 1956 he enrolled at Calvin College, a liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but he dropped out before the end of his sophomore year.
In September 1959, Huizenga enlisted in the Army reserve and spent six months in the service full-time to complete his basic training.
Returning to Fort Lauderdale, he started a garbage hauling business, as his grandfather had done in Chicago in 1894. Beginning with a single garbage truck in 1968, he grew Waste Management, Inc. into an entity that would become a Fortune 500 company. Huizenga aggressively purchased independent garbage hauling companies, and by the time he took the company public in 1972, he had completed the acquisition of 133 small-time haulers. By 1983, he grew Waste Management into the largest waste disposal company in the United States.
Huizenga repeated his business success with Blockbuster Video, acquiring a handful of stores in 1987, and becoming the country's leading movie rental chain by 1994. Eventually, he would also build and acquire auto dealerships, from which in 1996 he formed AutoNation, which has become the nation's largest automotive dealer and a Fortune 500 company, and remains his most recent major business venture. Huizenga has been a five-time recipient of Financial World magazine's "CEO of the Year" award, and was the Ernst & Young "2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year".
In late 2004, he sold his ownership share in a group of hotels that included The Hyatt Pier 66 Hotel and Radisson Bahia Mar Hotel & Marina in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, The Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, Florida, and several others in Naples, Florida and Arizona.
In 2004, he purchased the private luxury yacht Aussie Rules from the Australian boat builder and the golfer Greg Norman. The yacht cost $77 million and was further modified by Huizenga and now features a helipad for a twelve-seat helicopter. Aussie Rules was renamed Floridian after his private golf course designed by Gary Player.
In 2010, Huizenga reconnected with Steve Berrard, former CEO of Blockbuster Video and AutoNation, to take Swisher Hygiene public. Swisher Hygiene trades on the Nasdaq and the Toronto Stock Exchange via a 2010 reverse takeover deal in which it took over the publicly traded status of CoolBrands International, a former Markham, Ontario, Canada-based frozen food and dessert manufacturer. CoolBrands had divested its core businesses in 2007, leaving little more than a corporate shell.
Sports team ownership
Huizenga currently owns 5% of the Miami Dolphins, as well as 5% of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. He held 50% of the team and stadium until January 2009 when he sold a 45% stake to Stephen M. Ross.
He purchased 15% of the team and their sports venue in 1990, during a period of financial hardship for the franchise. Long time owner Joe Robbie had recently died and his family found it difficult to keep the team afloat. In turn, Huizenga bought out the remaining shares of the team to become full owner in 1993. He then pulled the Joe Robbie name off the building and sold that space to a corporate sponsor who later went under (Pro Player). It has since been renamed Dolphins Stadium, Dolphin Stadium, LandShark Stadium, and Sun Life Stadium. On February 22, 2008, he sold 50% of the Miami Dolphins and 50% of the then Dolphin Stadium to Stephen M. Ross, a New York City-based real estate developer and founder, chairman and CEO of The Related Companies.
Huizenga is notable for introducing both baseball and hockey to the South Florida area as the initial owner of the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers. He was criticized for naming his two teams for the state of Florida rather than the city of Miami, but as an advocate for the city of Fort Lauderdale, he explained that his goal was to include Broward County and Palm Beach County in his teams' fanbase. (Indeed, he claimed at the time that he had not even considered naming the teams after "Miami" as an option, and that in his view the only legitimate choices had been "Florida," "South Florida," and "Tri-County.")
Huizenga presided over the single worst defense of the MLB World Championship in history, completely dismantling the 1997 World Champion Marlins and seeing a .333 winning percentage the following year, 1998. Huizenga sold the Marlins to current Boston Red Sox owner John Henry at the end of the 1998 season.
Huizenga operated the Panthers as a public holding company, buying numerous real estate properties in the name of his Panthers Holding Group. In 2001, he sold the Panthers to pharmaceutical businessman and friend Alan Cohen and his partner, former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar, for a discount price.
Huizenga, while attempting to build his sporting empire in South Florida, attempted to purchase the NBA's Miami Heat, but was unsuccessful.
Huizenga is a large donor to Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The business school there is named H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship in his honor. He has also donated to Pine Crest School, a private preparatory school, with their science building named the Huizenga Science Building after him. He is a board member of the Laureus Foundation, a charity that celebrates the universal power of sport to bring people together as a force for good and uses the passion that sport inspires to effect social change across the globe.
Huizenga was named as a Distinguished American by the Horatio Alger Association in 1992 for his active role in funding scholarships throughout Florida. His subsequent donations help fund the association's annual National Scholar awards, and he was named as their 2008 Norman Vincent Peale Award recipient, the highest honor bestowed by the organization.
Huizenga was inducted into the Junior Achievement/U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006.
In 2012, the City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida renamed Southeast 9th Street in the Rio Vista neighborhood "Wayne Huizenga Blvd".
On September 10, 1960 he married Joyce VanderWagon, a woman with a Dutch background, whom he met while in high school. He had known Joyce since his early school years in Evergreen Park. Wayne and Joyce had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. The marriage ended in divorce in 1966. Huizenga married his second wife, Martha Jean "Marti" (née Pike) Goldsby, a native of San Antonio, Florida, in April 1972. She was a secretary in one of his businesses. He later adopted her two children, Peter and Robert Ray. The couple were married until her death on January 3, 2017, following a 14 year battle with cancer