Harry Wayne Huizenga started out in business in the late 1960s, and quickly tasted success that led to Waste Management (NYSE: WM) entering the public market. That was just the start for this billionaire businessman, whose list of accomplishments also includes creating Blockbuster and AutoNation (NYSE: AN). If you are interested in success, you should be interested in getting to know Wayne Huizenga.
A modest start to Waste Managment
Huizenga didn't start off a billionaire on the list of Forbes' richest people. No, he started out with one trash-hauling truck and a dream. He was following in his grandfather's footsteps in the refuse business, building Waste Management from the ground up with a $5,000 loan from his father.
Huizenga started the company in 1968, and just four years later he was selling shares of Waste Management to the public. How did he achieve this success? The answer remains in the DNA of the now-gargantuan trash hauler to this day: acquisitions.
Garbage collection was, and still is, a fragmented industry. Huizenga built Waste Management by taking those disparate players and piecing them into a single entity. At the start, such transactions were more material to expansion than they are for the company today. However, despite Waste Management's vast size in 2015, it is still picking up smaller rivals to add to its portfolio.
For example, Waste Management early this year completed the purchase of Deffenbaugh Disposal. The acquired company owned seven transfer stations, two recycling facilities, one Subtitle D landfill, and one construction and demolition landfill. Compared to Waste Management this is a tiny company, but this is exactly the type of acquisition on which Huizenga built Waste Management into what it is today.
But wait, there's more
This isn't the only business Huizenga has built from the ground up. He took a similar approach when he created Blockbuster Video. You might think Blockbuster isn't such a great resume bullet since it was effectively put out of business by Netflix. But in its heyday, Blockbuster owned the movie rental market. The primary similarity between Waste Management and Blockbuster was the fragmentation of the industry that enabled Huizenga to build a national brand at the expense of mom-and-pop shops.
At this point we all know the Internet killed Blockbuster, but that was well after Huizenga sold the business and moved on to massive success No. 3, AutoNation. The auto dealer market is, as you might have guessed, fragmented. And Huizenga was once again able to use acquisitions to build massive scale -- in this case, the country's largest auto dealer.
Now, each of these three businesses is unique and all have had their ups and downs over time. But the fact that one man is behind them all is nothing short of incredible. Which is why anyone looking at building a business should take some time to examine Wayne Huizenga's career and clearly note the similarities between all three, most notably fragmentation and acquisition.
Like so many other billionaires, Huizenga's life isn't just about business. He's also well known in the philanthropy set, using the Huizenga Family Foundation to give some of his vast wealth away. But more people are likely to know Huizenga from his involvement in professional sports.
For example, he is or has been involved with the Miami Dolphins, the Florida Marlins, and the Florida Panthers as an owner/part owner. That covers football, baseball, and hockey, with the latter two franchises actually being teams he helped bring to Florida. He even unsuccessfully tried to buy basketball's Miami Heat at one point.
Case study times three
The thing is, personal exploits often overshadow the business success of men like Wayne Huizenga. While that's neither good nor bad in the grand scheme of things, how billionaires use their wealth often obscures the many lessons investors and businesspeople can learn from examining how that wealth was created in the first place. In Huizenga's case, his lessons span not one, not two, but three important and successful businesses.