Joseph Vincent Vittoria, former chairman and CEO of Avis Rent-A-Car, died on January 18 at his home after battling leukemia. He was 85.
Born in Glen Cove, N.Y., Vittoria grew up in nearby Sea Cliff and had a passion for sailing. After graduating with a degree in civil engineering from Yale University, Vittoria earned his MBA degree at Columbia University. He started his car rental career at Hertz Rent A Car in Rome. He married his wife Luciana and they had three of their four children while living in Italy.
Then Vittoria took a job with Avis Rent-A-Car and was transferred to London. Several years later, he and his family moved to New York City where he was promoted into a new global role at Hertz. In 1980, his family settled in Greenwich, Conn.
He was then lured back to Avis where he eventually became CEO. During his time as CEO of Avis, he implemented a successful Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).
After retiring from car rental, Vittoria founded Travel Services International, a public company that changed the traditional distribution system in the travel industry. He sold it in 2000 to a British travel company. In 2000, Vittoria became an investor and chairman of Puradyn Filter Technologies, Inc., becoming CEO in 2006.
Vittoria also developed a line of sailing superyachts called the Mirabellas. In 2004, he launched the Mirabella V, a sailing yacht with the tallest single mast. His wife Luciana ran the yacht business out of their home in Palm Beach, Fla., while Vittoria sat on Columbia Business School’s Board of Overseers and served on a presidential commission under Ronald Reagan in the ‘80s.
He is survived by his wife Luciana, his four children and their spouses, 11 grandchildren, and his brother Jerome.