A Floridian since his teens, Harry Wayne Huizenga cofounded Waste Management and built it into a multibillion-dollar business. Next came Blockbuster, the video-rental chain that made Huizenga $8.5 billion when he sold it to Viacom. Today he chairs three companies, including AutoNation, America's top car retailer, and has started a new helicopter business in Ireland.
We hear you've been playing more golf lately.
I'm sixty-four and my son, Wayne Jr., just became president of our company, so I am playing more. For years I was building businesses, working seven and a half days a week. Now I have some time. I'm not saying I'm retiring. But I went to play golf in Ireland eight times last year, and I'll go five or six more times this year.
You like the game so much that you built your own course.
It's called the Floridian. Gary Player designed it. About 150 friends and business associates of mine play there and nobody pays fees or dues. We have lots of fun. For a few years we held an event, the Big Three Invitational, with Arnie Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary, and we still host a fund-raiser for the Gary Player Foundation. Ray Floyd likes to play the Floridian; so do Chi Chi Rodriguez, Nick Price, Greg Norman and Jesper Parnevik.
Does Player still do hundreds of sit-ups every day?
He does 1,000 sit-ups a day. Gary is a fine gentleman, too. Last year he played the Floridian with Sergio Garcia, who has the same energy Gary has. I loved watching Sergio jumping up and down, high-fiving everyone. I like to see players show emotion. Football coaches, too—I like to see coaches get animated on the sideline.
You own the Miami Dolphins and part of the NHL's Panthers, and you used to own baseball's Florida Marlins. What's that about?
It keeps my competitive juices flowing. I also look at sports as a business, which people don't like to hear. But be realistic: When you pay $600 million for a team, it's a business and it needs to be run like one—as long as the fan comes first.
Any thoughts on baseball's financial situation?
It's very simple: Baseball has to do what football does. Football works because of revenue sharing and a salary cap. Everybody's payroll is the same, and every team starts the year with a fair shot. Not so for baseball. When the Yankees have a $135 million payroll and another team has a $35 million payroll, the fans know their team has no chance. Everyone talks about the Yankees dynasty, but I don't buy that. They just happen to be in the biggest and best market, so they can afford to pay players more than anyone else.
Do you ever play golf with your football players?
I play a lot with Dan Marino. We've been to Ireland together. Dan is unbelievably competitive. I'm a twelve handicap and he's about a four, so he gives me strokes. We always bet. The amount doesn't matter; we just have to have a bet going. The most I ever played for was a $200 Nassau. The other day, though, I was in a $2 Nassau.
Are businessmen as hard-nosed on the course as quarterbacks?
Jack Welch is. Jack brings out the best in me. Before his back surgery he was a six handicap, just as focused and competitive a golfer as Dan.
Tell us about your new helicopter-charter business.
Three years ago I went to Ireland with friends, and we chartered some old helicopters that broke down a lot. One time they had to land in a field because a rotor blade was coming off. So this year we bought two new helicopters and started a company called Links that's based in Shannon. When I'm not over there on a golf trip, we charter them out.
Was your best round in Ireland or Florida?
Neither. It was at Grandfather Golf & Country Club in North Carolina. I shot seventy-eight. It was just one of those great days when nothing can go wrong—I hit three balls into the woods and all three bounced right back out.
The Scorecard - WAYNE HUIZENGA
MEMBERSHIPS: "I've got dozens."
CLUBS: Ping driver, TaylorMade fairway woods and 360 irons