When I heard Wayne Huizenga died, I remembered the time I got to fly from Detroit to New York with the billionaire aboard his corporate jet.
It was around 1997, and I thought the flight would be a golden opportunity to pick the legendary entrepreneur's brain about his vision for transforming automotive retailing.
Huizenga and his top lieutenant, Steve Berrard, had come to Detroit to visit the Automotive News editorial staff and to hold some meetings with carmakers. In those heady days, they seemed to be turning the retail universe upside down, buying car dealerships at lightning speed.
After Huizenga and Berrard met with our staff, they went off to a private dinner in Grosse Pointe at which the guests were Chrysler's Bob Eaton, Ford's Jacques Nasser and General Motors' Rick Wagoner. Such was the clout Huizenga had at the time that powerful Detroit car executives were ready to put aside their competitive differences for an evening to dine with an industry outsider.
After dinner, they were flying to New York for a press conference and they had offered me a ride because I was covering their company, Republic Industries Inc. I was not invited to the private dinner. So I waited in my car at what was then Detroit City Airport for the dinner to end and their car to show up.
Alas, the flight to New York was a journalistic bust. Small talk wasn't Huizenga's thing. After some perfunctory chitchat about the dinner and some attempted questions from me, it became clear he had other business to attend to, though he wasn't rude about it. Rather, he was focused on a pile of documents an assistant had prepared for him to review. Huizenga began reading them with extraordinary swiftness. As he finished each paper, he wadded it up and tossed it onto a pile on the floor of the jet. By the time we reached New York, there was a small mountain of papers on the floor beside his seat and my notebook was largely empty.