(2 of 3)
Even as Huizenga wheels and deals in Hollywood, his professional sports properties make him a folk hero in South Florida. Huizenga holds the majority share of the Florida Panthers, who are joining the National Hockey League this year, in addition to 15% of the Miami Dolphins and 50% of their home field, Joe Robbie Stadium. While watching Dolphins home games in 1989, Huizenga realized that a baseball team would mean an additional 81 days of revenues for the stadium. So he personally paid $120 million for the controlling share of the Florida Marlins, a National League expansion club that took to the field this season. That's the way Huizenga operates. He often works 18-hour days, declaring, "I have more fun at the office than on the golf course." The 5- ft. 8-in. boss, who surveys his domain through steely blue eyes that some employees call "Wayne's lasers," misses little. He has been known to drop by stores unannounced and check them for cleanliness -- right down to the fixtures. Huizenga checks out job applicants just as thoroughly, requiring them to take drug tests that a company he owns administers.
Occasionally Huizenga shows a lighter side, appearing last year at a 1960s- theme Blockbuster convention in love beads, long hair (a wig) and other counterculture accoutrements. "How many other baseball owners would go onto the field in front of the fans and do the hokey-pokey with their mascots?" asks Robert Wuhl, an actor-comedian and close friend. At his inland-waterway . home, Huizenga revels in a collection of antique cars. The prize: a 1937 Rolls-Royce his wife Marti gave him for his 50th birthday. (The Huizengas each have two children from their previous marriages.)
The grandson of a Dutch immigrant who ran a Chicago garbage-collection business, Huizenga moved with his parents to Florida at 15. He took over a three-truck garbage route in the late 1950s and put together Waste Management in a merger with three other firms a decade later. The new company promptly set out to become a giant and once acquired 90 trash haulers in a feverish nine-month binge.
Such frantic growth spawned accusations of mob connections -- never proved -- and led to state and local fines on charges ranging from price fixing to illegal dumping. In 1976 Huizenga signed a consent degree, without admitting guilt, in response to Securities and Exchange Commission charges that the company had made improper political payments in Florida. In 1990 Waste Management paid $19.5 million to settle a class-action suit in Philadelphia that accused the firm of fixing prices between 1978 and 1987.
Weary of shuttling between his Fort Lauderdale home on weekends and Waste Management's Chicago headquarters, Huizenga retired in 1984 and vowed never to run another publicly held company. But he changed his mind after a friend urged him to visit a Blockbuster store in Chicago. While Huizenga didn't own a VCR, rarely went to movies and had thought of video stores as dingy purveyors of X-rated films, he was intrigued by the large, well-lighted store and its vast range of titles.