MIAMI -- Sylvan "Van" Myers, a titan of the media and vending industries, died here on Feb. 12. He was 95.
Myers spent 44 years at Wometco Enterprises, rising through the ranks to head the data division and later overseeing bottling, vending and foodservice operations. He became president of the company in 1983.
Investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts took over Wometco in 1984 in a deal worth $1 billion. Assets included 45 movie theaters, three television stations, 47 cable TV systems, the Miami Seaquarium and the Citrus Tower, along with the vending machine and soft drink divisions (at the time one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the nation). In 1994, Cobb Theatres bought the Wometco movie theater chain. The Cobb chain would later fold into Regal Entertainment Group. Wometco today still owns Seaquarium and a franchise of Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin' Donut stores in Miami, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico.
After retiring in 1984, Myers devoted himself to the south Florida community and working to improve people's lives, son Bruce Myers told the Miami Herald.
Myers was born in Norfolk, VA, in 1917. His father wanted him to join the family's mattress company, but Myers had bigger plans and went north to Harvard University. There, he met Jane who became his wife in 1940. Soon after, he entered the Navy and served as a lieutenant during World War II; he was assigned to an amphibious craft in Okinawa.
After the war, he returned to Boston where he would be contacted by Mitchell Wolfson, the cofounder of Wometco, a prominent Miami-based entertainment company that founded WTVJ, Miami's first TV station. Myers followed Wolfson down to Miami in 1946.
When Wolfson died in 1983, Myers became president and chief executive, responsible for overseeing its sale to KKR. During his short presidency, Myers is said to have worked tirelessly as an advocate for Wometco's employees.
In addition to his wife Jane and son Bruce, Myers is survived by daughter Catherine Myers, sister Valerie Rothschild and several grandchildren.
Grandson Carl Moser is general manager of Cardinal Canteen (Ashland, VA) and president of the Virginia Automatic Merchandising Association. Moser fondly remembers his grandfather as an influential figure of the vending industry. Myers loved to attend the Atlantic Coast Exposition during the 1960s and '70s, Moser told VT.
There will be a celebration of Sylvan "Van" Myers' life at 1 p.m., Feb. 23, at the Coral Gables Country Club, 997 N. Greenway Dr.