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Academy of Achievement H Wayne Huizenga

H. Wayne Huizenga

Inducted 1991

Wayne Huizenga, the son of a builder, was born in a Chicago suburb in 1937. When Wayne was in his teens he moved with his parents to Florida, where his father’s building business failed. His parents divorced and he lived with his mother. To help with expenses, he drove a truck and pumped gas after school and on weekends.

After high school graduation, he joined the Army and later spent some time at Calvin College in Michigan. He left school to work with a friend who owned a garbage collection company in Pompano Beach. In less than two years, Huizenga struck out on his own, buying an old truck and $500-a-month’s worth of the business. He worked from 2:30 a. M. until noon, then spent the rest of the day drumming up new business. Eventually, he co-founded Waste Management, acquiring 100 companies in nine months. Huizenga served as president and COO of the company until 1984, when he retired to pursue other interests.

In 1987, he and two partners bought control of Blockbuster, and Huizenga served as chairman and CEO of the company. At the time there were a total of eight stores. After growing and expanding that business to become the largest home video company in the world, Huizenga sold the company to Viacom for $8.4 billion. Today, Huizenga chairs four NYSE companies: Auto- Nation, Inc., Extended Stay America, Republic Services, and Boca Resorts, Inc. He also owns the Miami Dolphins, Pro Player Stadium, and is involved in real estate. Fortune magazine once said that Wayne Huizenga is the only person to ever build three Fortune 500 companies and own three professional sports teams.

Proud of his Horatio Alger Award, Huizenga says, “It is the ultimate of all awards.” A long-time member of the Horatio Alger Board, Huizenga served as president and CEO from 2000 to 2002. Now serving as chairman, he says, “Being an officer of the Association has been very rewarding. It is a tremendous organization that does so much to help the Scholars, not only with their education but also beyond. The staff works hard to keep track of the Scholars and to keep the organization running smoothly. I offer my congratulations to the staff for a job well done.”

When asked about his success, Huizenga’s response reveals his focus on the Horatio Alger Scholars. “I don’t think any of us Members have had as much success as our Scholars,” he says. “Overcoming hardships and working around and through their obstacles to achieve an education is what I call a true success.”

Huizenga often addresses the Scholars. His advice to them is to get an education and then work with good people. “People are what determine your success in the future,” he says. “Surround yourself with good people and you won’t fail.”