H. Wayne Huizenga, 80, passed away in his Fort Lauderdale home on Thursday night. There will be many stories written about the life of this exceptional man, but none will capture the impact his dedication to excellence and passion for humanity have had on South Florida.
Huizenga was a mentor to some, an inspiration to millions. He was personally responsible for advancing baseball and bringing hockey to South Florida, where he lived for more than 60 years. He goes down in the history books as the only individual to own three professional sports teams.
He is also the first and only three-time Fortune 500 Company owner, a generous philanthropist and educational proponent, who has forever left an impression on the Sunshine State.
Born December 29, 1937, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, Huizenga attended Pine Crest prep school in Fort Lauderdale. In that same town he would begin his garbage empire with a single second-hand garbage truck and a strong work ethic.
As the story goes, Huizenga drove the truck and collected trash beginning at 2:30 every morning and courted accounts wearing a proper suit each and every afternoon. The company would develop into Waste Management and become one of his greatest successes.
Mr. Huizenga owned the revolutionary Blockbuster Entertainment, which changed the way Americans viewed movies. While the industry has shifted, the company played a vital role in a generation of movie watchers.
His transforming work in developing AutoNation and Extended Stay hotels brought the disciplined business man financial success and enviable acumen.
But it was Huizenga’s foray into professional sports that gained him rock star-worthy fame. Having played football in high school, it was no surprise that the former center obtained the Miami Dolphins as well as their stadium. He would own the franchise until 2009, when he reluctantly sold the team to Steve Ross for $1.1 billion.
Under his ownership, the Marlins won the World Series in their fifth season (1997), and the Panthers reached the Stanley Cup Finals in their third (1995-96). Both teams credit Huizenga for their triumphs. On January 19, 2018, the Panthers retired the number 37, his lucky number and his birth year. Huizenga attended the ceremony, but was not able to participate, due to his failing health.
In South Florida, Huizenga will not be forgotten. In the Rio Vista neighborhood, “Wayne Huizenga Boulevard” is widely traveled, Fort Lauderdale’s diamond-tiled Walk of Fame on State Road A1A boasts his name, and the Historical Society named him their “Man of the Centennial.”
The H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship at NOVA Southeastern University offers the next generations a way to glean from the man who was awarded Financial World Magazine’s CEO of the Year five times and the 2005 recipient of Ernst & Young World Entrepreneur of the Year.
A 150-seat amphitheater is featured in Huizenga Plaza, a resident-friendly 1.8-acre park along the New River.
“It’s a tremendous loss to the Fort Lauderdale community and to the whole of South Florida,” said former Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler. “He had a monumental impact on our community, in the business world, the sports world, the art world and the charitable world.”
H. Wayne Huizenga is survived by his four children, Ray (Jennifer); Pamela (Jay); Wayne Jr. (Fonda); and Scott; and 11 grandchildren.
His burial is anticipated to be at the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale.