BOCA RATON, FL – The founder of fleet management company Donlen, Donald (Don) Rappeport, passed away on April 6, 2012. He was 85. After having worked for a number of years in automotive sales and for Greyhound Corp., an early fleet leasing company, he recognized the business potential in the fleet leasing and management industry, and founded Donlen with partner Leonard (Len) Vine in 1965 in a small office in Lincolnwood, Ill. Rappeport directed company sales while Vine oversaw day-to-day operations. The name of the company was created by the contraction of Rappeport’s and Vine’s first names, Don and Len.
During his time at Donlen, Rappeport remained involved in company sales. He served as company CEO until he retired in 2001. He remained chairman of the board until 2011. Rappeport’s business partner Vine passed away in 1979.
Donlen's vehicle portfolio grew from 5,000 vehicles in 1970 to 144,000 in 2011 when Hertz Global Holdings announced its purchase of Donlen. The company has 500 corporate clients.
When the company celebrated its 35th anniversary, Rappeport had the following to say, “We are extremely proud of what we have accomplished in the industry, but even more pleased with the personal relationships we have built with our customers and the dedicated support we have received from our employees throughout the years.”
Rappeport was inducted in the Automotive Fleet magazine's Fleet Hall of Fame in 2008 for his contributions to the fleet leasing and management industry.
Ray Fisher, who served as president of Donlen between 2006 and 2008, and worked for Chrysler for 32 years, had the following to say about Rappeport.
"Don was a man ahead of his time in that even from the earliest days of Donlen, he made customer and employee satisfaction a fundamental of his business," Fisher said. "He was able to build a strong team through employee retention. In his later years it was clear that he was very proud that Gary, and the many fine people at Donlen, were able to enjoy tremendous growth while holding true to his early values."
Bob Piot, who served as Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Donlen between 1978 and 1987, and today as National Sales & Marketing Manager for the Commercial Finance division of Toyota Financial Services, had the following to say about Rappeport.
“I was very sorry to read about the passing of Don Rappeport on April 6th,” Piot said. “Don was a family man with a good heart. He was a tough business man. He was honest, a good leader, and a man ahead of his time. When I started working at Donlen, I was very surprised at how good and updated their equipment was. Every day Don would start his business day out the same way, you could walk past his office door and there would be Don reading his Wall Street Journal. Don was always well read, well informed and ready to take on the next challenge to grow his business. Yes, Don Rappeport will be missed. He was a family man, a gentleman, a visionary and a leader who was ahead of his time.”
Gary Tepas, former CEO and president, and current chairman, for Emkay also shared his memories of Rappeport.
“Having had the opportunity to work for Don, for a short time, early in my career, I learned much from him,” said Tepas. “His love for family was tops for him, not just his kids and wife, but his dad who also spent much time at the company and was a significant influence as the company was being built. Don often said, ‘If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves,’ and he ran both the company and his personal life with that thought always on his mind. While he was tough businessman, Don had a soft side that one could easily see when being around him on a regular basis. He made a real impact and will be affectionately remembered.”
Rappeport was born Aug. 7, 1926 in Chicago. After graduating from Lakeview High School, he enlisted in the Navy, and was a WWII veteran. He graduated from the University of Illinois.
Rappeport was also involved with several philanthropic organizations, including the American Cancer Foundation, the American Diabetes Foundation, the Glenbrook Hospital, and the Jewish United Fund. Rather than sending flowers, donations can be made to the American Diabetes Association via the organization's website, www.diabetes.org, or by mailing checks to PO. Box 11454, Alexandria, VA 22312.
Rappeport married Joan Ratner in 1953. In addition to his wife, his family members include son Gary Rappeport (the current CEO of Donlen), daughter Nancy Liace, and grandchildren Megan Lehmann, Katherine Dudley, and Max and Taylor Rappeport.
By Greg Basich and Mike Antich