Wayne Huizenga, an entrepreneur who started his career owning a single garbage truck in Chicago, died last night at age 80.

Huizenga built his empire by consolidating multiple industries. Trash hauling and video rental came first with Waste Management Inc. and Blockbuster Video. In those industries, he acquired mom-and-pop operations until he became the dominant player. He became a billionaire, running the companies out of South Florida.

He transformed the auto-retailing landscape in the U.S. when he founded the company that became AutoNation.

Huizenga wasn’t a car dealer himself, but he saw an opportunity to consolidate the retail business when he launched AutoNation as a used-car superstore chain in 1996 to compete with CarMax. Today, AutoNation is the country’s largest new-car retailer and the biggest of the public dealership groups formed during that era.

"We would not be the company we are today without the spirit, drive, energy, and vision he gave us. Wayne is at the very core of our culture," AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson said in a statement Friday. "To me personally, today, I lost both my mentor and my best friend."

In automotive retail, Huizenga initially focused on opening huge used-car megastores but quickly realized that more money could be made buying new-car dealerships. He switched gears and began making deals to acquire family-owned dealership groups. The last AutoNation USA used-car megastore closed in 1999.

In 2006, when Huizenga was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame, Sheldon Sandler of Bel Air Partners LLC, an auto retailing consulting firm in Hopewell, N.J., called him the "Babe Ruth of auto retailing."

"He did it in an ingenious way by collecting a tremendous number of assets for no money, just for stock," Sandler said. "That changed everyone’s notion of how car dealerships could be valued."

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