By Gary Nelson

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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -South Florida business tycoon H. Wayne Huizenga has died at the age of 80.

Huizenga’s family confirms to CBS4 News that Huizenga died at his home on the New River in Fort Lauderdale last night about 10, peacefully, after a years-long battle with cancer.  In recent days, Huizenga said his goodbyes to his sons and daughter.

“My brothers and myself all, one by one, went and told him that we loved him, and he was an amazing father, and that we were in good shape and that it was time for him to go and join Mom in heaven,“ Wayne Huizinga, Jr. told CBS4’s Gary Nelson on Friday.

Huizenga was a billionaire businessman who, in the early 90s, owned three major South Florida sports franchises including the Miami Dolphins, Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers.

He also founded three Fortune 500 companies; Waste Management, Blockbuster and AutoNation.

Autonation CEO Mike Jackson tweeted about the death of friend Friday morning.

Today I lost both my mentor and my best friend, H. Wayne Huizenga. Alice and I will miss the sparkle in his eye we came to love. pic.twitter.com/nM3TYBz50u

— Mike Jackson (@CEOMikeJackson) March 23, 2018

So did former Marlins President Mike Samson.

Wayne Huizenga has died. Love him or not, two facts are undeniable: his charitable character and his role in bringing major sports to South Florida.

— David P. Samson (@DavidPSamson) March 23, 2018

The Marlins released the following statement Friday: “Today, we mourn the passing of the original Florida Marlin, Mr. H. Wayne Huizenga, who will be remembered as much for his contributions to South Florida professional sports as he was for his many charitable endeavors in the surrounding community.”

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean J. Trantalis had the following statement.

“We are sorry to hear of the passing of H. Wayne Huizenga. He was a true visionary who helped create the Fort Lauderdale that exists today through his many business and philanthropic pursuits. He was a generous man who cared deeply for this community and brought us global attention. Wayne was a true gentleman, and I extend my sympathies to his family. It is a sad day for our community. He will be greatly missed.” 

The Miami Dolphins organization tweeted their condolences.

We mourn the loss of a beloved member of the Dolphins family.

Your kindness and generosity can be felt throughout South Florida.

We will miss you Mr. H. pic.twitter.com/bWrNjbU17q

— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) March 23, 2018

Former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino also tweeted about the loss of his friend.

Saddened to hear about the passing of my long-time friend Wayne Huizenga. My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Huizenga family! #RIP

— Dan Marino (@DanMarino) March 23, 2018

Mr. Huizenga’s name is on the façade of the H. Wayne Huizenga College of Business on NSU’s main campus. In addition, there is a statue of Mr. Huizenga on a park bench on the south side of the DeSantis building.

NSU President Dr. George L. Hanbury was also saddened by the news of Huizenga’s death.

“Wayne Huizenga was not only a consummate entrepreneur, but a humanitarian. And as trustee Emeritus, he will always be loved by the NSU community.”

According to the Forbes 400 list of wealthy Americans, Huizenga’s net worth of $2.8 billion in 2017 made him the 288th wealthiest person in America.

Huizenga was a huge philanthropist in South Florida, along with his wife Marti.

She died in January 2017 at 74.

Nova Southeastern University’s College of Business and Entrepreneurship bears his name.

In 1989, they donated $1 million to the Broward Community Foundation to establish the Huizenga Foundation, a children’s fund. The entrepreneur also gave $1 million in personal and corporate funds in 1997 to The African-American Library Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale.

“All the good works that he did for all those organizations of great need, from children to education, it is vast indeed,“ said Dan Lindblade, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce.

Huizenga’s cancer battle was known only by family and close friends.  Longtime associate and good friend, Bob Henninger, said Huizenga fought the good fight.

“He had the wonderful opportunity to visit with friends over the last couple of weeks, and more important, with his children and grandchildren, and so he was at peace when he left,“ Henninger told CBS4.

Huizenga’s  son said as good as he was in business, he was a hugely successful father, too.

“Love and redemption but expectations too,“ said Huizenga Jr.  ‘“You need to do something with your life and I’m not just going to give it to you.’”

Huizenga’s son said as wealthy as he was, his father did not know the meaning of greed.

“He loved everybody, and wanted to see everybody succeed. And most of all, he loved South Florida,“ said Huizenga, Jr.

Huizenga is survived his children Ray (Jennifer), Pamela (Jay), Wayne Jr. (Fonda) and Scott; and 13 grandchildren.

He is to be buried at the historic Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale.

A memorial service will be held at the Broward Performing Arts Center promptly at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 29th.

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