Mal Mixon: The man, the legend

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Years from now, long after the BBA ‘97 and the Wheeler Dealers are forgotten, people in the HME industry will still be talking about Invacare CEO Mal Mixon. Like him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him or the company he wields. Swaggering, outspoken and relentless, Mixon is the industry’s largest personality. In this wayward corner of the business world, Mixon’s who we have instead of Iacocca and Welch.

Stories about him have already acquired a sepia-like cast. Take the one about how, on a whim, he flew a bunch of customers from Washington to Cleveland one night for some really fine tex-mex. Or the one about how his father made him run home from high school basketball games if he played poorly.

All of this speaks to the legend of Mal Mixon, not necessarily his influence. But the influence is plain. For starters, one only has to follow the money. Invacare’s political action committee is the largest in the industry by far. Perhaps more impactful are his fund-raising activities. At his home in August, he hosted a fundraiser and collected $150,000 for Rep. Dave Hobson, R, Ohio. The Bush re-election campaign lists Mixon as one of 221 elite ‘Ranger’ fundraisers, but insiders say Mixon is actually one of the top-10 fundraisers for the president’s re-election campaign. That kind of money means Mixon gets to talk to the president. While they might chit-chat about bird-hunting on their ranches in Texas, it’d be tough to believe that Mixon isn’t advocating for the welfare of Invacare, and by extension the HME industry - or vice versa.