DeVos remembered as ‘heart’ of Amway

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 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.”

DeVos, who served as Amway’s president until 1993, also was involved in the NBA, buying the Magic from a group headed by Orlando real estate developer William duPont III in 1991 for $70 million.