Amway Co-Founder Richard DeVos Passes Away at Age 92
DETROIT (AP) -- Billionaire Richard DeVos, co-founder of direct-selling giant Amway, owner of the Orlando Magic and father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, died Thursday. He was 92.
Family spokesman Nick Wasmiller says DeVos died at his western Michigan home due to complications from an infection.
DeVos was born in Grand Rapids, not far from Ada, the community about 140 miles (225 kilometers) west of Detroit where he later lived and died.
In 1949, he and friend Jay Van Andel took $49 and invested the modest amount into manufacturer and vitamin direct-seller Nutrilite. They became independent vitamin distributors and later used the company's person-to-person selling approach when starting Amway in Ada with an all-purpose household cleaning product.
They coined the name Amway as an abbreviation of "American Way." Over five decades, Amway became a multibillion-dollar international corporation. Van Andel died in 2004.
"Rich and my father built this company from the ground up, and in many ways Rich was the heart and soul of Amway," said Steve Van Andel, Amway's chair. "His vision and spirit inspired our employees and independent business owners for more than 50 years."
Michigan's Republican governor described DeVos as "an incredible businessman, philanthropist and true Michigander."
"The positive impact Rich had on our state is truly immeasurable," Rick Snyder said Thursday. "Through successful business ventures and charitable endeavors, he created endless opportunities for residents of many different ages and backgrounds. Rich's giving spirit is how we will always remember him, and his legacy is certain to live on forever."
Former President George W. Bush called DeVos "one of the great entrepreneurs — and great Americans — of our time."
"He used his business to empower others and advance the universal values of freedom, opportunity, compassion, and personal responsibility," Bush said. "Rich made his country and his community better, and he was a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather."