[Marxism] Master of Enterprise moves on
cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Thu Dec 9 07:35:41 MST 2004
JAY VAN ANDEL | 1924-2004: Amway cofounder a pillar of goodwill
December 8, 2004
BY JEWEL GOPWANI
FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER
Jay Van Andel, the man who helped make Amway a household name and took
conservative politics and philanthropy to new heights, died Tuesday morning.
"We are all saddened by the passing of Jay Van Andel, who was a great family
man and a worldwide leader in the business arena," said former President
Gerald R. Ford.
Van Andel, who had Parkinson's disease, died of natural causes at 9:40 a.m.
at his home in Ada, one day after returning from his home in the Caribbean.
He was 80.
He was known for his political and philanthropic influence locally and
abroad. In his hometown of Grand Rapids, buildings and institutions carry
He served as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a director of the
Gerald R. Ford Foundation, and he was appointed by former President George
Bush to an ambassador's position.
A downtown Grand Rapids arena that opened in 1996 was named for Van Andel
after his foundation donated $11.5 million toward its $75-million cost. The
Van Andel Museum Center was built in 1994 with the help of a $6-million
donation from the family.
A member of Mensa, Van Andel founded the nonprofit Van Andel Institute, two
facilities dedicated to medical research and education. He spent $60 million
to build its headquarters in Grand Rapids, covered its annual budget and
planned to pledge most of his taxable estate to it.
Like many Michiganders, Van Andel hated cold weather.
But he escaped frigid temperatures by retreating to his own island in the
Caribbean, which he reached accompanied by an aide by private jet --
luxuries he had reaped from cofounding the multibillion-dollar Amway Corp.
with longtime friend Richard DeVos.
The pair met at Grand Rapids Christian High, when DeVos noticed Van Andel's
Model A Ford. DeVos paid Van Andel 25 cents a week as gas money to ride to
school with Van Andel every day.
That was the start of a lifelong business relationship.
Returning to Grand Rapids after World War II, Van Andel and DeVos tried
their hands at several businesses.
The first was a flying school that had one airplane, a Piper Cub fitted with
pontoons that used the Grand River for takeoffs and landings. They later
opened Grand Rapids' first drive-in restaurant.
They ventured into person-to-person sales in 1949, forming the Ja-Ri Corp.,
selling vitamins and food supplements. They founded Amway in 1959, operating
out of the basements of their neighboring homes and selling a single
product, a biodegradable household cleaner called L.O.C.
"He was chairman because he was older, and I was president because I was
younger," DeVos said Tuesday. "We always laughed about that."
After being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease nine years ago, Van Andel had
his good days and his bad days.
There were days when he even had trouble speaking, DeVos said.
Forbes listed Van Andel's net worth at $2.3 billion, No. 231 on the
magazine's 2004 list of the world's richest people.
Casey Wondergem, executive director of the Jay and Betty Van Andel
Foundation, worked for Van Andel for more than 20 years with Amway and with
the foundation and offered a glimpse of the business sense that made the man
"He had an incredible memory," he said. "If he sent you a note and you
didn't answer it, you would get another note immediately after."
Those follow-up notes would say: "I'm still waiting," Wondergem remembered.
"That's all he'd have to say to me."
Van Andel and DeVos handed off the business to their sons, Steve Van Andel
and Doug DeVos, who run Alticor Inc., the parent company of Amway. Alticor
posted $6.2 billion in revenue during its 2004 fiscal year, which ended Aug.
Van Andel and DeVos used their fortunes to contribute to conservative
They have been among the biggest donors to the Republican Party in the
United States. This year, each contributed $2 million to Progress for
America, an independent group that supported President George W. Bush's
In addition, this year Van Andel donated $475,000 to the Michigan Republican
Party, money that was disbursed mostly to state Legislature candidates.
Van Andel was a member of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation
since 1985. His daughter, Barbara Van Andel-Gaby, has been a member since
"Jay was a pillar in Michigan for his work in business, the Republican
Party, the arts community, civic and religious organizations," said state
Republican Party Chairman Betsy DeVos. "We will sorely miss the energy,
support and optimism Jay brought to the party.
"As a Michigander, I will miss him greatly; as a dear friend, I will miss
him even more."
One admirer remembers that Van Andel never seemed to have his own interests
"Never when I met with him did he speak about his self-interest in the Amway
Corporation or this or that policy issue that might have affected his
business. He had a broader vision," said Paul Hillegonds, president of
Detroit Renaissance and former minority leader and speaker in the state
House of Representatives.
Van Andel certainly had a vision for Grand Rapids, his hometown.
In 1978, Amway bought the 65-year-old Pantlind Hotel, restored it, added a
29-story tower and reopened it in 1981 as the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
"Those are the memories of a lifetime of two guys just putting one foot in
front of the other, trying to make something happen," Richard DeVos said.
In his autobiography "An Enterprising Life," Van Andel wrote: "For me, the
greatest pleasure comes not from the endless acquisition of material things,
but from creating wealth and giving it away."
His wife, Betty Van Andel, died Jan. 18 at 82 at the family home on Peter
Island in the Caribbean. She had Alzheimer's disease and had been in
Jay Van Andel's funeral will be at 1:30 p.m. Friday at LaGrave Avenue
Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids.
Contact JEWEL GOPWANI at 313-223-4550 or gopwani at freepress.com. Staff writer
Chris Christoff and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Richard DeVos 216
78 , self made
Track This Person
Net Worth: $2.4 bil
Country of citizenship: United States
Residence: Ada, MI, United States
Marital Status: married , 4 children
Friends since the early 1940s: duo joined military together after high
school; opened drive-in eatery; than Amway. Amway, reorganized as Alticor in
2000, now distributes more than $4.9 billion worth of personal care and home
products in 80 countries. Richard: heart transplant recipient, owner pro
basketball's Orlando Magic, recently donated $20 million to help build the
DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Jay: formed the Van
Andel Institute for cancer research, education.
Amway # 41 on Largest Private Cos. 2001 , # 39 on Largest Private Cos.
2000 , # 37 on Largest Private Cos. 1999
DeVos, Richard M # 236 on World's Richest People 2003 , # 258 on World's
Richest People 2002 , # 312 on World's Richest People 2001 , # 81 on Forbes
400 2003 , # 113 on Forbes 400 2002 , # 135 on Forbes 400
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