1926: Richard Devos, Businessman, Sports Franchise Owner, Philanthropist, Born

March 4, 2023 all-day

Richard DeVos, Sr. and Jay Van Andel are the two co-founders of the Amway Corporation, a pioneer company in network sales of household and personal products. The network sales company sells its products through dealers who in turn recruit second level dealers, second level dealers in turn recruit third level dealers, etc. The final level dealers typically are mainly the consumers of the products distributed by the network.

The two founders knew each other since their high school days, and as adults tried several businesses, including a flying school, a drive-in restaurant and a sales dealership in vitamins and supplements.

It was the latter business that piqued their interest and they started the Amway Corporation in 1959 to sell their own brand of household products. Their first product was a general household cleaner, but they quickly expanded to other household and personal grooming products.

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Richard DeVos (center) and Jay Van Andel with President Gerald R. Ford, 1975

The company expanded quickly. It established its first dealerships in Canada in 1963, and Australia and Europe followed quickly thereafter. The Asia market opened in 1974 with a dealership in Hong Kong. It took some time to move into the China and Japan markets. But in 1992, a joint venture plant was built in China and Amway Japan went public in 1993. In the year 2006, the world-wide annual sales of Amway were estimated at $4.6 billion. A more recent estimate by Forbes Magazine in October 2013 puts Alticor annual salesĀ at $11.3 billion.

The two founders of Amway handed over the reins of the company to their respective sons in the 1990s. DeVos, Sr. turned over the presidency of Amway to his oldest son Richard[Rich] DeVos, Jr. in 1992. Van Andel followed suit by turning over the chairmanship of the company to his son Steve in 1995. The two sons also shared the newly-created position of chief executive of the company. In recent years Dick DeVos, Jr has become interested in a political career and is seeking the 2006 Michigan governorship position. He has been replaced in his Amway management position by his younger brother Douglas [Doug] DeVos. In recent years Amway has become a subsidiary of the Alticor Corporation, a Corporation controlled entirely by the DeVos and Van Andel families.

Richard Devos, Sr., unlike his partner Van Andel, became interested in professional sports in the early 1990s and acquired the Orlando Magic NBA Basketball team. He also became a philanthropist and donated funds to Northwood University and its Business School which is now named the Richard DeVos School of Management. In 2005 Richard’s son in law, Robert [Bob] Vander Weide took control of the Orlando Magic.

DeVos, Sr., like his partner Jay Van Andel also became a significant donor to causes in the Greater Grand Rapids area. DeVos, Sr. donated $20 million to help build the DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids. He also became a significant donor to conservative political and civic causes largely benefiting the Republican Party. As mentioned above his oldest son, Richard [Rich] DeVos, Jr. ran for the State of Michigan governorship in the 2006 election.

Richard DeVos, Sr., like his partner Jay Van Andel also suffered from medical problems. DeVos, Sr. was the recipient of a heart transplant which took place in England. He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan from Dutch-American parents. Richard DeVos, Sr. is married to his wife Helen, and they have four children, all at some time active in the Amway Corporation. The children are, Dick and his wife Betsy DeVos, Dan and his wife Pam DeVos, Cheri and her husband Bob Vander Weide, and Doug and his wife Maria DeVos.

Forbes magazine in its October 2013 estimated DeVos’ net worth at $6.8 billion.

Source: Richard DeVos [1926] biography, New Netherland Institute.

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