Glazer was born in Rochester, New York, the fifth of seven children of Lithuanian Jewish immigrants, Abraham and Hannah Glazer. He began working in his father’s watch-parts business at age 8. At 15, when his father died, he entered the business world. Glazer sold watches door to door to help support his family. Reuters quoted Mr. Glazer as once remarking that his father’s death “was probably the most tragic thing that ever happened in my life, but it was good in one way” because “it made me a man.” He briefly attended Sampson College in Romulus, New York before committing himself full-time to jewelry and watch repair. A small man with a reddish beard — he was referred to in the news media as “the leprechaun”
Glazer obtained the watch repair concession at the Sampson Air Force Base. In 1956, after the base closed, he expanded into real estate investing in single-family homes, duplexes, and commercial buildings in Rochester, eventually owning commercial real estate across America. In 1963, he bought the National Bank of Savannah in upstate New York. In 1973, he bought the first of five health care facilities he was to own, the West Hill Convalescent Center in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1976, he purchased three television stations for $20 million including WRBL in Columbus, Georgia. In 1984, he founded First Allied Corporation, a holding company for his various endeavors where he served as president and chief executive officer. First Allied invested in a diverse portfolio of international holdings and public companies including: Zapata Corporation, Houlihan's Restaurant group, Harley-Davidson, Formica, Tonka Toys, Specialty Equipment and Omega Protein.
Glazer’s first gained national business attention in 1984 when he launched an unsuccessful $7.6 billion bid to buy the government controlled freight rail company, Conrail. He was later the largest shareholder of kitchen designer Formica in 1988 and, later, with motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson. Glazer achieved control of Zapata Corporation, an oil and gas company founded by George H. W. Bush. Glazer successfully diversified it into fish protein and Caribbean supermarkets.
Glazer owned a diverse portfolio of investments, which included food service equipment, food packaging and food supplies, marine protein, broadcasting, health care, property, banking, natural gas and oil, the Internet, stocks and bonds.
Glazer purchased the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise on January 16, 1995, following the death of former owner Hugh Culverhouse. He paid $192 million - a league record at that time. Glazer served as president of the team, while sons Bryan, Joel and Edward were co-chairmen at the time.