H. Wayne Huizenga, who grew Blockbuster Video into the country’s dominant video rental outlet, died Thursday at his home in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was 80. A cause of cause of death was not disclosed, but reports indicate that the billionaire former owner of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins was battling cancer.
“Wayne was a true video industry pioneer,” said Mark Fisher, President & CEO, of Entertainment Merchants Association. “When he and his partners bought Blockbuster in 1987, it consisted of just 19 stores. Huizenga grew it in to the leading video store chain in the country, with 3,700 stores and annual revenue of $4 billion by the time he sold it in 1994.
“During his tenure at Blockbuster the blue and yellow stores became the symbol of video rental, and ‘Make It a Blockbuster Night’ entered the lexicon. Whether you worked for him, competed with him (as many of us did — and lost), or simply rented movies in his stores, you have to respect his impact on the in-home movie experience.”
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Huizenga also was the founding owner of baseball’s Florida (now Miami) Marlins and NHL’s Florida Panthers and a former owner of the Miami Dolphins, making him the first owner of teams in three major U.S. sports leagues, according to ESPN.
In a statement today, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman called Huizenga “an entrepreneurial visionary who possessed boundless energy, drive and imagination.” The Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 along with the then-Disney-owned Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.
Huizenga also founded AutoNation and Waste Management Inc. Forbes reported his 2017 net worth at $2.8 billion.
Although once ubiquitous throughout the country — and the world — Blockbuster’s familiar orange and blue ticket logo has all but disappeared in the streaming era. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2010, and its last remaining stores later were bought by Dish Network.