By Carol Cain
Father’s Day is a week away, but Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, former GM president Lloyd Reuss and motor racing Icon Roger Penske got early presents.
It’s every dad’s dream to see their children be successful. Having them follow in their footsteps is icing on the cake.
For DeVos, the 86-year-old who with the late Jay Van Andel started Amway 52 years ago and watched it grow into a powerhouse as parent company, Alticor, reported 2011 sales of $10.9 billion, it was déjà vu.
DeVos was voted into the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA) prestigious Hall of Fame in 1979 for efforts to put Amway on the map. (Jay Van Andel was inducted into the exclusive club in 1987).
On Tuesday night, Rich DeVos presided over ceremonies as he officially welcomed sons — Dick, 56, former Amway president, and Doug, 47, Amway’s current president, into the DSA Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual meeting in Grapevine, Texas.
Rich DeVos was also recognized with DSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award during Tuesday’s event.
“I’m just so grateful I am here tonight to honor my sons and my wife (Helen) , who raised these boys into great men while Jay and I were gone building the business,” Rich DeVos said.
“Dick took us around the world and even corrected some of the mistakes we made,” said Rich DeVos. And Doug has helped grow the business, he added, through his leadership along with chairman Steve Van Andel, and his passion as an ambassador for entrepreneurship.
“I have been so blessed in my life,” DeVos, now a motivational speaker and best-selling author told me. He and his family also own the Orlando Magic.
Receiving the award from their father proved a special moment.
“Often times, people assume that when you follow a parent in business, the path is already paved for you, but in fact, it’s up to you where that path can lead,” said Dick DeVos. “But to have the opportunity, and someone to teach you what’s in front of you like my father did, it prepares you for the challenges you’re about to face. This award is truly an honor.
Doug DeVos added, “My Dad and his business partner Jay Van Andel were focused and optimistic — and they passed that on to the next generation of leaders. I know that I have followed in the footsteps of great men, whose lifelong love of seeing others succeed has been a deep source of inspiration to me. It is truly an honor.”
Steve Van Andel followed his father to become chairman of Amway in 1995. He and Doug DeVos run the privately held health and beauty giant owned by the two families. It has 20,000 employees (4,000 in west Michigan) and sales in more than 80 countries and territories.
Rich and Helen DeVos have also made helping Grand Rapids a family passion along with their four children and grandchildren.
Eldest grandson, Rick DeVos (Betsy and Dick’s son), is keeping that tradition going with ArtPrize and more recently Start Garden, a $15 million venture fund to inspire business start ups.
“Things at Amway are going well,” added Rich DeVos, who is a board member at the Ada-based company.
Today, Dick DeVos, who ran as the 2006 GOP gubernatorial candidate, is involved in helping grow the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and launching an urban market in Grand Rapids.
He and wife, Betsy, also run Windquest and are champions for educational reform.
Rich DeVos is also at work on a new book about Amway. No doubt Tuesday’s festivities provided some interesting fodder for it.
Race to the finish line
For Lloyd Reuss, 76, an engineer who ascended to GM’s president’s job from 1990 until 1992, and who was responsible for bringing Grand Prix
Formula One racing to Detroit in the 1980s, it was also déjà vu this week.
He was alongside son, Mark, 48, president of GM, who brought the roar of engines back to Detroit on Sunday as the Belle Isle Grand Prix was held after a four-year hiatus.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my life,” said Lloyd Reuss. “Having Mark involved in the business and showing he truly cares about the city is just as important.”
Mark Reuss, an avid racing enthusiast who’s a certified test driver on the North Course at Germany’s famed Nurburgring Motorsport Racetrack. He also earned his licence for Grand American Road Racing, said the Belle Isle event was really a shout out to the world that the Motor City is fighting its way back from tough economic times.
“This is so much more than just a race,” Mark Reuss said.
“This race is an important event to showcase our IndyCar program as well as an opportunity to showcase the city of Detroit,” Reuss said. ” With the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix being held right in our hometown, this race offers all of our employees as well as our partners in the Detroit area that have contributed to this program the ability to see first-hand the results of their hard work.”
Roger Penske, racing icon who runs Penske Corp., was also on hand Sunday as his drivers competed in the race, was a major force in both Reuss’ efforts to bring auto racing to Detroit.
“I’ve known Roger since the 1960s when he owned a Chevy dealership on 12 Mile and I was chief engineer on the Camaro,” the senior Reuss told me.
Penske, 75, who has five children, had two sons with him Sunday. Greg Penske, 49, who is chairman/CEO of Penske Motor Group, in El Monte, Calif., and Jay, 33, who is team owner of Dragon Racing which also competed in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
Alas, the Penske teams didn’t make it to the winner’s circle. But getting the race back into the heart of the Motor City undoubtedly provided some special memories for the Penske family.
(Carol Cain is the Emmy winning senior producer and host of “Michigan Matters” 11:30 am Sundays on CBS 62. She also writes about business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org).