10 of the most extraordinary people in fleet history

Skyfy Technology fleet management extraordinary people

Here at Skyfy, we have compiled a list of ten of the most remarkable individuals in fleet history.  With many having made significant contributions in the fleet industry, these people indeed deserve to be inducted into the Fleet Hall of Fame.

  1. Jim Frank

A native of Chicago, Frank is currently the CEO and president of Wheels Inc. Upon joining the firm in 1967, he was mentored by his father Zollie Frank.

Jim started in the business by selling cars on the retail side. In 1974, he was promoted to Wheels president, where he said “My personal objective is to keep the company true to the fundamental goals we have successfully established over the past 35 years. We don’t necessarily want to be the biggest, but we want to be the best company in the industry. We emphasise quality and sensitivity to our clients’ needs – to me, those are our most important goals.”

Now, Wheels remains one of the top four largest automobile and truck leasing firms within the United States. Frank was also the President of the American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA).

  1. Henk Bosman

Henk Bosman was a pioneer in the fleet management and leasing industry. He started Vehicle Lease and Management Services in 1964.

He had no cars then – only a modest promise that he could “add a few more over time”.

Bosman achieved much more than what he predicted. He took Vehicle Lease and Management Services to more than 80, 000 vehicles, where it earned a position of national prominence. In 1972, it was bought over by U.S. Leasing and became a subsidiary of its parent company.

Consequently, the firm started to expand rapidly, due to the addition of many other leasing companies.

Henk Bosman suffered from cancer and passed away on 13 August 2009 in Salem, Ore. He was 80. Henk Bosman, a pioneer in the fleet leasing and management industry, passed away on Aug. 13, 2009 of cancer in Salem, Ore. He was 80.

  1. Lester Landau

Landau was one of the founders of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) in 1957. At the same time, he was the budget director for Picker X-Ray in White Plains, New York, from 1949 to 1974.

During his time as the budget director, Landau assumed full responsibility for managing the company’s fleet. Landau became the first president of the NAFA foundation in 1976 and maintained his position all the way to 1986.

At NAFA, he made persistent effort to make fleet management part of the curriculum at major universities. He also worked closely with the administrators and faculty of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in creating the Wharton CFM programme.

NAFA honoured Landau for his contributions and service with the Distinguished Service Award and Honorary Lifetime Membership. He retired in 1979 to start an independent real estate consulting company.

Landau passed away on 28 September.

  1. Al Cavalli

Calvalli’s career in the fleet industry began in 1948 at Universal CIT Credit Corp. (UCIT), where he worked with mentor Emil Ames. He worked there for several years and became the Vice President of client relations and the director. He retired from the job in 1981.

Consequently, he joined Avis Car Leasing as a manager of sales and service, retiring 8 years later in 1989. He also served as the NAFA New York chapter chairman from 1963 to 1965 and NAFA president from 1969 to 1971. He initiated the group’s Fleet Manager’s Manual, Fleet Safety Manual and established a fixed Chapter Code of Regulations.

Calvalli’s honours include NAFA’s honorary member award and Distinguished Service Award.

  1. Dick Heather

Heather was one of the 3 founders of Peterson, Howell & Heather in 1946. The company is now called PHH Arval.

The 3 founding partners worked together at Butler Brothers, a national wholesaler of general merchandise based in Chicago. This was prior to World War II.

Heather served in the navy during the war. After his discharge, he decided to join Duane Peterson and Harley Howell in their venture of finding a more effective way for firms to manage their sales fleets.

During this time, Heather brought a great amount of sales and marketing savvy to the company. He was active in selling the new concept and helping the concept of fleet management take root within offices.

He served as the chairman of PHH from 1962 to 1971. Under his exemplary leadership, the firm expanded and diversified.

  1. Walter Jacobs

In 1918, Walter Jacobs went into the car renting business in Chicago. He was 22 years old.

His fleet of vehicles consisted of 12 black Model T Fords, which he rented to motorists for USD$10 per day.

Apart from managing accounts, Jacobs was also often in the garage maintaining his vehicles. One of the gimmicks that Jacobs used to rent his cars was by opening touring cars that carried billboards.

Within five years, he had reaped enormous success with his company. His fleet had grown from 12 to 565 cars, with annual rentals that totalled USD$1 million. This was definitely a remarkable feat, considering that it was only 1923.

Jacobs first named his firm Rent-a-Ford. Consequently he changed it to Rent-a-Car, and finally to the Yellow Driv-ur-self System.

Jacobs sold his company in 1923. At the same time, he was also hired as Hertz’s top administrative and operating executive.

He soon retired from his position at the firm as chief executive officer and president.


  1. Sam Lee 

Lee started his career at Chevrolet dealerships in Chicago and New York. In 1948, he created Lee Fleet Management Inc. in Chicago. He consequently shifted the operations to Cleveland, where he purchased a dealership with Ford.

Apart from this, Lee was also a consultant and addressed clients’ concerns on their fleet operations. He aided lease companies in enhancing their operations and helped car dealers with the organisation of lease departments.

Consequently, after the sale of his companies, Lee organised the Fleetway System in California, where he installed lease departments in 8 different western states. This programme was soon integrated with the Chevway system.

Lee was also the publisher and editor of Lease News. He was the author of three books: Fleet and Lease Manager’s Handbook, Introduction to Leasing and Automotive Transportation in Industry.

From 1972 to 1979, he was First Leasing Corp’s VP of marketing. Additionally, he was an honorary NAFA member and a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and California Vehicle Leasing Association. Lee passed away in 1985.

  1. Joe Holman

Holman was chairman of the board of Holman Automotive Group, Inc. It was situated in Maple Shade, New Jersey. After graduating from Princeton University, he started his automotive career. This was in 1950.


Founded in 1924 by Steward Holman (who was Joe’s father), Holman Automotive has dealerships that are located in Florida and South New Jersey. Additionally, they have one body installation firm, one remanufacturing operation and one emergency vehicle manufacturing firm.

Upon the request of a reputable manufacturer, the Holmans decided to form ARI in 1948. Currently, it is a national fleet management company that is managing more than 740 000 vehicles in North America.

In 1990, Holman was a candidate for the Time magazine quality dealer award. He was actively involved in different automobile associations in the United States.

Holman also served on the Lincoln-Mercury dealer council. His dealership honours include and Ford’s Distinguished Achievement Award, Ford’s Vice President’s 100 Club and the Automotive Hall of Fame Distinguished Service Citation.


  1. Don Rappeport

Rappeport was a native of Chicago. He graduated from the University of Illinois and was a World War II Navy veteran. In 1965, after accumulating many years’ worth of expertise in automotive sales and working for Greyhound, he saw potential in the fleet leasing and management industry. This led him to establish the Donlen Corporation with Leonard Vine.

Rapperport was responsible for directing the company’s sales, while Vine monitored day-to-day operations. Throughout his time at Donlen and as president, he was consistently involved in company sales.

Retirement for Rappeport was a gradual process. Today, he is serving as chairman of the board. He is also involved with many philantrophic organisations, including the American Diabetes Foundation, the American Cancer Foundation and the Jewish United Fund.

  1. Bill Willis

In 1953, Bill Willis worked for the Ford Aircraft plant in Claycomo, Missouri. In 1954, when Ford Aircraft was closing, he was hired at the Kansas City District Office, where he worked as a “mailboy”.

In 1965, Willis was transferred to Detroit, where he worked for Used Vehicles. He then began his career with Ford Division, which is located in Kansas city. At work, he had to rotate through several field assignments.

Willis’ longest-held field position was as a regional manager in Ford, located in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1982, he moved back to Detroit and was given the position of general fleet and leasing manager. This also meant that he was replacing Lee Whitman upon his retirement.

Willis retired in June 1991 and passed away a few months later in October. During Willis’ tenure as the general fleet manager for Ford Division, the company launched the 1986 Ford Taurus. This became the top-selling passenger car in both retail and fleet markets. Furthermore, during Willis’ time with the Ford Motor Company, Ford Division was No. 1 in fleet sales in 1984, 1985, 1988, 1989, and 1990.

Indeed, with great tenacity and determine, these 10 individuals have made their mark in fleet history and will be remembered for their contributions. Although the fleet industry is not an easy one, these people have shown that it is possible to thrive amidst the difficulties that come with the job.



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