Auto Europe founder Alex Cecil died Dec. 20 in Cambridge, Mass. He was 79.

Cecil started Auto Europe in Germany in 1954, purchasing cars and renting them to U.S. travelers in Europe. He later moved the company to New York to be closer to U.S. travel agents, Auto Europe said. He later relocated the company to Maine.

In 1997, Cecil retired from the industry, handing the reins to Imad Khalidi, president and CEO.

"Alex was a mastermind in marketing and revolutionized the industry”, Khalidi said. “He proposed the idea of utilizing car rental supplier fleets in the off-season for tourism, as most suppliers at that time catered to the business traveler. You could say he was the godfather of the concept of car rental brokers."

Today, Auto Europe says it has more than 4,000 car rental locations worldwide.

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