Forrest E. Mars Jr., grandson of the founder of Mars, Inc., passed away in Seattle on Tuesday, at age 84. During his tenure as co-president, Mars, Inc. became the world’s largest confectionary company, selling everything from Mars bars to Uncle Ben’s rice.
Forrest Jr. inherited the company along with his brother John and sister Jacqueline in 1973 from their father, Forrest Sr., who was responsible for inventing M&M’s, the most famous Mars product today.
However, it was Forrest Jr. who was at the front of Mars’ global expansion. He became co-president with his brother in 1975, just as the company was beginning to enter markets in Africa and Russia.
At the time, Mars, Inc. sold roughly $1 billion worth of candy, but when Forrest Mars Jr. left his post as co-president in 1999, the company had annual sales of $18 billion. Today, after the acquisition of William. Wrigley Jr. Company (maker of popular gum brands such as Juicy Fruit), Mars sells roughly $35 billion worth of goods yearly and has 80,000 employees across the globe.
After retiring to his 82,000-acre ranch in Montana, Forrest Jr. continued to serve on the Mars board until 2006 and remained active in the Mars Foundation. Although Mars, Inc. is not known for its philanthropy, Forrest Jr. was personally committed to historic preservation, donating millions to both the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York.
Despite his reclusiveness, Forrest Jr. stepped into the public eye a decade ago for his vehement opposition to the development of coal and gas fields on his Montana ranch. He argued that, despite the companies’ drilling leases, any drilling could not happen because it would contaminate his water supply.
Forrest Jr. is survived by his wife, the former Jacomien Ford; four daughters, Victoria Mars, Pamela Mars-Wright, Valerie Mars, and Marijke Mars; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.