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Panoz was an Italian-American. His father, Eugene Panunzio, immigrated to the United States from Avezzano, Italy in the 1900s. Eugene, who shortened his surname from the original Panunzio to Panoz, was a champion featherweight boxer.
Panoz attended Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia, where he met Nancy, whom he would later marry. The two both served in Japan with the United States Army, then moved to Pittsburgh upon their return to the United States.
Panoz operated two drug stores in Pittsburgh while studying business at Duquesne University. In 1961, Panoz and Milan Puskar formed Milan Pharmaceuticals (which would later be renamed Mylan) in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. While head of this company, Panoz headed a research group that invented time-release medication through a transdermal patch, known most commonly in today's market for its nicotine application.
Panoz left Mylan in 1969 when the company refused to develop the patch, and subsequently moved the family to Ireland where he formed Élan Corporation. This company has since become an industry leader in drug delivery products and technology, continues to hold the worldwide patent for the nicotine patch, and was the first Irish company to be publicly listed in the U.S. stock market. Panoz gradually reduced his stakes in the company, and it was bought by Perrigo in 2013.
Don and Nancy Panoz founded Château Élan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Georgia, in 1992. At the time of Don's death on 2018 the couple still owned the resort, which has since grown to 3,500 acres (14 km2). The Panozes sold a portion of their businesses to three partners in 2004. Similarly in Patterson, California, 35 miles east of San Jose, the Panozes developed Diablo Grande gated community and the Diablo Grande Winery and Resort, which was sold In 2005; and later they founded the St. Andrews Bay Resort and Spa in Scotland. This venue has since been sold and is now managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts as the Fairmont St Andrews. These venues feature golf course designs and collaborations from Bruce Devlin, Denis Griffiths, Jack Nicklaus, Gene Sarazen, and Sam Torrance.
He was also the co-Founder and chairman of a water pollution control firm, HydroMentia, and was the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Norcross, GA based indoor LED display manufacturer, NanoLumens.
He was also the owner of Panoz, LLC located at 1089 Highway 124, Hoschton, Georgia 30548. In 2014, he began manufacturing the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Panoz Motorsports car made exclusively in the United States.
Panoz in motorsports
In 1989, Panoz funded an upstart company started by his son Dan, called Panoz Auto Development. Reportedly, the senior Panoz was skeptical at first of his son's venture, but later used his position in the business world to bring celebrity motorsport figures such as Mario Andretti on board with the goal of entering a Panoz race car in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race.
Panoz Motorsports was formed in 1997 in Braselton and entered its brand new car, the Panoz Esperante GTR-1, at Le Mans. The team was competitive, finishing ahead of all but two of the major factory teams in its class.
In 1999, Panoz founded the American Le Mans Series with the aim of bringing European-style endurance sports car racing to the Americas.
Today, the holdings of Panoz family include the following:
- Chateau Elan Winery & Resort
- Diablo Grande Winery & Resort
- Élan Natural Waters
- Fountainhead Development Corporation
- Panoz Auto Development Company
- The Vintage Golf Club, Australia
- Van Diemen International
- Panoz, LLC
Former holdings including:
- Sebring International Raceway (long-term lease) - Sold To NASCAR (IMSA Holdings, LLC)
- Road Atlanta - Sold To NASCAR (IMSA Holdings, LLC)
- Mosport International Raceway (long-term lease) - Sold To C.M.V. Ron Fellows, Carlo Fedani
Personal life and death
Panoz and his wife Nancy were married for 63 years. They had two sons, Danny and Chris, and four daughters, Dona, Dena, Lisa and Andrea.
Panoz died on September 11, 2018 of pancreatic cancer. He was 83.
- Don Panoz – 1935-2018
- "Honorary Degrees". West Virginia University. Archived from the original on 19 September 2017. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
- "Our History". Mylan Inc. Retrieved March 17, 2011.
- Rachel Tobin Ramos (July 17, 2006). "$20 million re-do for Château Élan". Atlanta Business Chronicle.
- "Donald E. Panoz". Businessweek. Retrieved 22 May 2013.
- "Board of Directors". NanoLumens. Retrieved 16 Jan 2014.