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Wayne Huizenga, Business Titan, Dies at 80

H. Wayne Huizenga, 80, passed away from cancer in Fort Lauderdale on March 23. He began his career in a business many would turn their noses up at, trash collection. According to him, so did he at first when offered a job in the business as a young man, but he quickly changed his mind. From that seemingly small and humble beginning he grew the largest waste disposal company in the United States, Waste Management. He also founded Blockbuster (video rentals), the Miami Marlins (baseball), the Florida Panthers (ice hockey) and AutoNation. At one time he was the sole owner of the Miami Dolphins football team and Joe Robbie Stadium.

Blockbuster was sold to Viacom in 1994 for $8.4 billion in stock, years before the Netflix concept drew away its customers in massive numbers, relegating it to the heap of has-beens.

Huizenga pumped gas as a teen after his parents divorced, attended Pine Crest prep school in Fort Lauderdale, served briefly in the U.S. Army reserves in 1959, and in 1962, at 25, made his first real move toward becoming the Goliath of garbage upon which he’d build his fortune. He started the Southern Sanitation Service by borrowing $5,000 from his father and sweet-talking a rival trash hauler in Fort Lauderdale into selling him a used truck and a few accounts.

Huizenga would set out on his route at 2:30 a.m., pick up garbage and haul it to the dump. By midafternoon, he’d change into a dapper suit — appearances matter, he knew — and call on potential clients to boost his business.

Call it pluck or learn-as-you-go. “I didn’t know anything about the business,” he said in an interview in The New York Times Magazine. “I just worked hard and gave good service.” — Howard Cohen, Adam H. Beasley & Barry Jackson, Miami Herald

 

 

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