Wayne Huizenga was born ‘Harry Wayne Huizenga’ on December 29, 1937 in Evergreen Park, Illinois. His family moved to Florida, while he was still in high school, where he attended Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, graduating in 1955. The following year he moved back to Illinois and in 1956 he enrolled at Calvin College, a liberal arts college in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In September 1959, he enlisted in the Army reserve.
On September 10, 1960, he married Joyce VanderWagon, whom he met in his early school years in Evergreen Park, Illinois. Wayne and Joyce had two children, Wayne Jr. and Scott. They were divorced in 1966. In April 1972, Wayne married his second wife, Marti Goldsby.
After difficulty in finding work, he joined a family friend who owned a garbage collection company. Within two years, (1968) he bought his own truck and started his own garbage collection business. He would spend the early morning hours on his route picking up garbage from customers, and then spend the late afternoons canvassing neighborhoods, soliciting new business. His hard work and dedication eventually grew into his company, Waste Management Inc.
Starting from the one truck, he would buy up smaller competitors and eventually had a fleet of 40 trucks. Within four years of starting, he merged with a larger business in Chicago to form Waste Management Inc. In 1972 he took his company public and used the funding from the stock offering to acquire about 150 other garbage service companies, making it the largest waste disposal company in the United States.
Having successfully turned a one-truck business into a multimillion-dollar enterprise in less than a decade, Wayne partnered with two others in 1987 to do the same with an already established business known as Blockbuster Video. By 1989, Blockbuster had 19 stores and was doing about $7 million when Wayne and his partners took it public that year. Within five years, it had grown to more than 3,700 stores in 11 countries and more than $4 Billion in global sales. In 1994, Wayne and his partners sold Blockbuster to Viacom for $8.4 billion in stock.
Wayne continued this momentum with several other companies, developing AutoNation, a national car dealership chain with 370 dealerships across the USA, then Extended Stay America, a discount hotel chain, which grew to 62 properties in the first year and nearly 500 by the time he sold it in 2004. He even went back to his roots and started another waste management company called Republic Services, which eventually merged with Waste Management, Inc to create the largest waste management company in the USA.
Along the way, Wayne has earned the respect of the business community by receiving several awards. In 1992, he received the Horatio Alger Award, given to honor Americans who have overcome adversity to achieve great success. Additionally, he was named Financial World Magazine’s “CEO of the Year” 5 times, and was named Ernst & Young’s 2004 U.S. Entrepreneur of the Year and 2005 World Entrepreneur of the Year.