Arthur H. Hertz, CEO of Wometco Enterprises Inc., heir to the legendary Mitchell Wolfson, and enemy of those who have long protested the captivity of Miami Seaquarium's Lolita, is dead.
Hertz, who died Wednesday at the age of 83, graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree from the University of Miami in 1955. He was also a member of Iron Arrow, the highest honor a UM graduate can earn, and a certified public accountant.
Hertz served in many public capacities: as CEO of the Mitchell Wolfson Sr. Foundation; president of the Orange Bowl Committee; chairman of Visit Florida, the state's recently disputed tourism authority; and chairman of the City of Miami Off-Street Parking Authority.
“Our community has lost a great man," Parking Authority CEO Art Noriega says. "Mr. Hertz's... deep love and commitment to the betterment of our community is palpable in the many organizations and causes that he championed throughout his life. He will be sorely missed.”
Hertz, though, is most commonly thought of as the CEO of Wometco Enterprises, which owns and operates Miami Seaquarium. The company was founded by Wolfson, whose family name is perhaps Miami's best known. It bought the Seaquarium in 1960. In 1983, at the age of 49, Hertz was promoted to Wometco chief operating officer
after Wolfson's death.
He was later promoted to CEO of Wometco, where he became the target of protesters who said the Seaquarium's star attraction, the orca Lolita, was unfairly separated from her family and kept in a tank that was too small. Over the years, those protesters have camped outside a Seaquarium trainer's home and spent hundreds of weekends demonstrating outside the Virginia Key attraction with signs that say "captivity kills" and singing songs referring to "Miami's sea prison."
In 2000, after the governor of Washington state urged the Seaquarium to free Lolita, and Ocean Drive
founder Jerry Powers offered $2 million for her release, Hertz told New Times
: "It's not even up for discussion. Lolita's family is here at the Seaquarium. That whale gets better medical treatment than any human."
Hertz's son Andrew has presided over the park, where Lolita still performs, since 2003. Like his father, he has said Lolita is well cared for. “Lolita and I are about the same age, so when I’m having a bad day, I look to her, and if she’s doing OK, I know I can’t complain,” Andrew says. To prepare her for the whale show, he says, trainers use positive reinforcement, a method that rewards for good behavior but does not reprimand for bad behavior. “She won't do anything she isn’t comfortable doing."
Alexa Garcia contributed to this report.