Jay Van Andel, co-founder of the oft-controversial Amway Corp. that launched the multilevel marketing industry, died Dec. 7. He was 80.
Van Andel and his partner, Rich DeVos, founded Amway in 1959 while working from their basements, according to Alticor Inc., Ada, MI, the parent corporation of Amway, Quixtar Corp. and Access Business Group. The pair eventually expanded Amway into a multibillion-dollar enterprise and one of the world's largest direct sellers.
However, questions about the nature of their business dogged Amway and its related companies, including an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission in the 1970s into whether Amway's operation was a pyramid scheme. In 1979, a landmark case established the legitimacy of Amway's business model.
The case also set a standard whereby Amway representatives were required to make a certain amount of retail sales every month to people who were not also Amway distributors. The FTC had alleged that Amway's biggest distributors sold mainly to newly recruited distributors.
Van Andel also was known for philanthropic efforts, including the Van Andel Institute, a biomedical research facility in Grand Rapids, MI. In 1995, his son, Steve, took over as Amway chairman.