Brief - The Hustle

“Trash, Grit, and Videotape”: An ode to the late-Blockbuster billionaire Wayne Huizenga

Written by Lindsey Quinn | Jun 30, 2020 7:50:16 AM

Beloved eccentric billionaire Wayne Huizenga passed away last Thursday at the age of 80, and even if you don’t recognize his name, you probably know some of his work — Blockbuster video ring any bells?

Huizenga had a reported net worth of $2.2B in 2017. He rose to cult status as an entrepreneur, thanks to his MO of growing businesses into industry leaders, then selling them off for massive gains.

From trash to cash

Born to a family of trash haulers in 1937, Huizenga dropped out of college to run his own garbage business in Florida, driving a truck from 2am to noon, then reaching out to new customers in the afternoon.

6 years later, in 1968, he bought out 100 other competitors to create Waste Management, which grew to become the largest trash company in the world by 1972, and now does over $14B per year in revenue.

For most people, that would’ve been enough, but Wayne “The Wasteman” Huizenga isn’t most people. He resigned from Waste Management in ‘84 at 47 with $100m in stock. 

2 years later, he was back at it, investing $25k into a chain of 19 video stores with a dream to build “the McDonald’s of video.”

And Blockbuster was born

Over the next 8 years, Huizenga grew Blockbuster to 3.7k outlets and $4B in annual revenue as the leading movie-rental company in America.

For those of you shaking your heads knowingly, thinking, VHS? you poor sap… think again. Huizenga sold to Viacom for $8.4B in ‘94, 3 years before Netflix launched, and nearly 2 decades before the Block got busted and filed for bankruptcy.

Odds n’ dividends

Huizenga used his buster cash to buy the NFL’s Miami Dolphins for $138m in ‘94, as well as the Florida Panthers hockey team, which he operated as a public holding company, “Panthers Holding Group,” to invest in real estate and triple his initial investment to $150m.

From VHS to the NHL, Huizenga’s made his fortune on an uncanny knack for striking when the iron was hot — and gettin’ out when the gettin’s good.