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About Carl DeSantis

Carl DeSantis is an “only in America” success story.

Born in Massachusetts and raised in Miami Beach, Mr. DeSantis has been a lifelong entrepreneur with a natural flair for business and marketing. After becoming one of the youngest store managers in Walgreen’s history, he launched Sundown Vitamins in his garage building it from a mail order company into the world’s largest vitamin manufacturer.

The company would later become Rexall Sundown and growing into a NASDAQ standout and Fortune 100 company because of Carl’s leadership and team building skills. Rexall Sundown was an industry colossus doing business with the world’s biggest retailers and pioneering best-selling products ranging from a full line of fine vitamins to multi-billion-dollar seller Osteo-Biflex many of which are still on the market selling briskly.

In 2000, Royal Numico purchased Rexall Sundown for $1.8 billion. While that might have been a capstone for many careers, it was merely a chapter in Carl’s life. He immediately began to invest in and pioneer a series of companies while also continuing to indulge his passion for philanthropy. Among his notable investments: Celsius, a publicly traded global fitness drink and powder, Tabañero, an award-winning hot sauce, Kwandwe, an eco-tourist resort in South Africa and landmark real estate projects throughout South Florida.

Why DeSantis Foundation

Carl DeSantis was an extraordinary individual. We aspire to be an extraordinary foundation.

When we worked with Mr. DeSantis on the creation of the Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation we thought deeply about his career, his spirit, and his passions. We wanted to create something unique and special because that describes Mr. DeSantis.  Carl touched so many people during his lifetime.

The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation means that Carl’s work will go on in perpetuity. We believe his best work lies ahead. We are creating a foundation that seeks to create transformational change in the communities where we work.

Our areas of interest: Leadership and Entrepreneurship, Health and Nutrition, Faith-Based Endeavors and Civic Innovation serve as a launching pad for creating better lives for all.

We seek to partner with extraordinary leaders and organizations driving positive change in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Our goal is to build a better tomorrow and honor Carl’s heart by making investments that will make a lasting difference in the community that he loved.

We are honored to do this work in his memory. We are here to transform lives, just like our founder.

Born 1939

Carl was born in July 1939 in Massachusetts. His father died when he was 3 and he was raised by a single mother and his grandparents Angus and Margaret.

High School

Carl attended Miami Jackson High School where he played football and showed an early interest in business. As a child, he sold parakeets and delivered newspapers. He sold his parakeet business for $400. His first profitable exit.

College - 1957

Carl briefly attended Florida State University where he performed in the school circus tossing and catching female acrobats.

Walgreens - 1960

Carl became a young manager at Walgreens starting in Miami Beach before being transferred to Greensboro, N.C. where he learned how to merchandise and became familiar with consumer tastes and desires, a skill that would serve him well.

Rexall – 1976 - 2000

The Sundown Years….

At the age of 37, Carl DeSantis founded Sundown Vitamins in 1976. He buys the name Rexall in 1985 from the iconic drug store chain and then goes public in 1993 under the name Rexall Sundown.

Rexall Sundown would become a stock market darling and at its height employed over 1,500 people in Palm Beach and Broward counties.

The company was America’s largest supplement manufacturer in the 1990s racking up about $600 million in sales per year and dominating vitamin aisles in stores ranging from Wal-Mart and Publix to small town pharmacies.v

Rexall Sundown created a slew of hits including the blockbuster Osteo-Bi-Flex which remains a bestseller today.

During his tenure at Rexall Sundown, Mr. DeSantis gave close to $20 million to colleges, public television and other non-profit organizations. Highlights included a $2 million gift to Nova Southeastern University to help build the graduate school of business and entrepreneurship. He also gave $1 million to Florida Atlantic University’s Business School and $1 million to help WXEL-TV go digital.

In addition, Rexall Sundown was a generous corporate citizen helping to establish the Rexall Sundown Pediatric Transplant Institute at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami.

Rexall Sundown was purchased by Dutch company Royal Numico NV for $1.8 billion in 2000.

1998 NSU Hall of Fame

In 1998, Nova Southeastern University named Carl to its Hall of Fame. Honored for his entrepreneurial success and philanthropic heart, Carl joins business icons such as H. Wayne Huizenga, Guy Harvey, Jorge Perez and Bernie Marcus in the Hall.

Dr. DeSantis 1999 FSU Honorary Degree

In 1999, Carl received an honorary doctorate from Florida State University. In a self-deprecating speech, Carl notes his brief but memorable tenure at FSU. He receives a Doctorate in Humane Letters in honor of his success in business.

Vitamin Enriched 1999

Carl publishes a book that details the story of his life and entrepreneurial success. Carl says he wrote Vitamin Enriched so that his customers, his distributors, his employees and even his own family will know him a little better and benefit from his experience. He reveals personal challenges such as battling illness and overcoming the pain of divorce. And he shares his recipe for success; useful, inspiring information which isn’t only directed to entrepreneurs.

CDS International Holdings – Sept 1999

Soon after selling Rexall Sundown, Carl forms CDS International Holdings, a family office. Unlike many family offices, CDS does more than manage Carl’s investments, the company also operates businesses. Over the years, it has owned and operated Tabañero, a hot sauce and condiments company, The DeSantis Collection, a men’s fashion line, Gillis & Sons, an antiques and collectibles retailer, La Cigale, an award winning French restaurant in Delray Beach, hotels, office buildings and real estate investments in Florida, New York, the Bahamas, California and Texas. CDS also invests in promising businesses and technologies.

Kwandwe 1999

South Africa holds a special place in Carl’s heart. He buys 60,000 hectares and creates Kwandwe, a pioneer in the eco-tourism movement. He would spend over 20 years traveling back and forth to South Africa practicing conservation, creating memorable experiences for guests and investing in the education of local residents.

CNN Pinnacle interview 1999

Celsius – 2007 - Present

Carl is blessed with a sixth sense for knowing what consumers will crave in a product. He fell in love with Celsius, a tiny beverage company located in his hometown of Delray Beach, Florida. With a fervent belief in the brand’s potential, Carl and his team dug in and never gave up. From $250,000 in sales and a few mom and pop accounts, Celsius has grown into a colossus selling all over the world. Today, Celsius is a multibillion brand that trades on NASDAQ under the symbol CELH. The success of the company landed Carl on the Forbes Billionaires List as an octogenarian. He also made the list in 2001. Very few entrepreneurs have had multiple hits, proving the power of belief, hard work and the importance of building a great team.

Creates The Carl Angus DeSantis Foundation - 2021


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