Amway founder and Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos died on Thursday. He was 92. His death was announced by his grandson Rick.
Mr. DeVos will be remembered as this team’s greatest cheerleader,” Magic Chief Executive Officer Alex Martins said. “He’ll be remembered for his boundless generosity, his great leadership, how he picked people up no matter who you were. Whether you were a ticket-taker, an usher, a member of our team, a coach or the CEO, he always made you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”
“Other than his family,” Martins added, “there was nothing that brought happiness to him more than the Orlando Magic did and being around his team. We’re going to miss him dearly.”
DeVos took over as the Magic’s owner when he purchased the franchise for $85 million from Orlando real estate developer William duPont III after duPont experienced financial difficulties.
DeVos had been president of Amway from its 1959 founding until he retired in 1993. His son Doug DeVos has served as president of Amway since 2002. He was also the father-in-law of Betsy DeVos, the US education secretary. His family still co-owns Amway with the family of co-founder Jay Van Andel. DeVos and his family has a combined fortune worth $5.5 billion, according to Forbes’ list of richest people.
Amway started the move away from traditional brick-and-mortar stores decades before the internet changed the way people shopped.
The company’s products aren’t sold in stores. Instead it uses a network of independent salespeople who buy products and sell them directly to people in their communities.
DeVos and Van Andel were among a handful of people who created an entire industry: multi-level marketing companies. It wasn’t the first such direct retailer, but it was a leader in the field.
Amway is still successful: It reported sales of $8.6 billion last year. It uses a network of 3 million sales people worldwide.
DeVos had a history of health problems dating to 1983, when he had a heart attack and underwent bypass surgery. In a two-year span, beginning in the summer of 1992, he suffered a stroke and had a second heart attack.
He was on his deathbed when he headed to London in 1997 to receive a heart transplant at 71. The donor was a 39-year-old woman who was killed in a car accident.
DeVos is survived by four children and their spouses — Dick and Betsy, Dan and Pamella, Cheri, and Doug and Maria — by grandchildren and great-grandchildren. One of Rich DeVos’ daughters-in-law is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who was appointed to the Cabinet by President Donald Trump.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be made to Grand Rapids Christian School Association, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, or Prison Fellowship Ministries.
Martins said Magic players will wear an “RDV” patch on their uniforms throughout the 2018-19 season. A part of Amway Center’s game court will have DeVos’ initials. And team employees will wear pins to commemorate DeVos.
“He will definitely be missed,” Martins said, “and it’s our responsibility to carry on his legacy.”