The family released the following statement upon his death:
“Our father, grandfather, and great-grandfather…. passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family on September 6, 2018, at age 92. Dad spread positivity everywhere he went and encouraged everyone he met. He did that for his children and grandchildren, and for countless others around the world. His positivity was a constant, motivating force that inspired many others to make meaningful changes in their own lives and communities. He was a visionary leader, builder, life enricher, motivator, and a champion for people from all walks of life.
“Rich DeVos was many things to many people, but to us he was simply ‘Dad,’ ‘Grandpa,’ ‘Bumpa,’ or ‘Papa Great.’ We are deeply grateful and blessed beyond measure to have been loved unconditionally, raised, mentored, and inspired by him. He was a role model unlike any other….”
The cause of DeVos’ death was complications from an infection, according to a company statement.
In addition to Amway, DeVos also was senior chairman of the Orlando Magic NBA franchise, a generous philanthropist with his late wife Helen and a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award.
DeVos was born on March 4, 1926 in Grand Rapids, MI, and grew up during the Great Depression. He and classmate Jay Van Andel first dreamed of owning their own business while students at Grand Rapids Christian High School. Their friendship grew out of a business arrangement—DeVos paid Van Andel 25 cents a week for rides to and from school. After both returned from service overseas in World War II, their early entrepreneurial ventures included a flight school and one of the first drive-in restaurants in Michigan. They sold both interests in 1948 to buy a sailboat in Connecticut with intentions to sail to the Caribbean—even though neither had any sailing experience. Their old wooden schooner, “Elizabeth,” sank off the coast of Cuba. A passing freighter rescued them, and they continued their adventure on land through South America.
In 1949, they invested $49 and became highly successful independent distributors for Nutrilite, a manufacturer and direct seller of vitamins that used a person-to-person selling approach that the partners later adopted when starting Amway from their homes in Ada, MI, in 1959, with an all-purpose cleaner, L.O.C., as their only product. Over five decades, DeVos and his partner built the business into a multi-billion-dollar international corporation and the world’s leading direct selling company.
DeVos was Amway president from the company’s founding until 1993, when he was succeeded by his son, Dick, and in 2002 by his son, Doug. Doug DeVos shares the office of the CEO with chairman Steve Van Andel, son of co-founder Van Andel, who died in December 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 Amway chairman Steve Van Andel. “His vision and spirit inspired our employees and independent business owners for more than 50 years. No one even comes close to Rich in the love he inspired in the hearts and minds of our family of employees and business owners. We will miss him terribly.”