Forrest E. Mars Jr., the eldest grandson of the man who brought us Milky Way, Snickers, and M&Ms has died. He was 84. The retired co-president of Mars Incorporated died on July 26th while traveling in Seattle. Since retirement, Forrest Jr. had made his home on a ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming. The cause of death was complications from a heart attack. Forrest Jr. was integral in making M&Ms as recognizable in Russia and China as they were in the U.S. Like the rest of his family, he shunned the spotlight, preferring total anonymity instead.
Forrest Jr. inherited the candy company along with his younger siblings John and Jacqueline in 1973. The brothers became co-presidents and ran the company together. When they took over, Mars Inc.'s annual sales were about $1 billion. Today, sales are $35 billion a year.
Forrest Edward Mars Jr. was born Aug. 16, 1931, in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park, Illinois. He was the eldest of three children and attended the Hotchkiss School boarding school in Connecticut. He went on to Yale University for his B.A. and New York University for his MBA. Before Forrest Jr. joined the family business he served in the Army and worked as an auditor for Price Waterhouse.
Mars Inc. produces some of the country's favorite candy – Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, Skittles, and Milky Way. It also makes Dove ice cream bars, owns Wrigley gum brands, Uncle Ben's rice, and Pedigree and Whiskas pet foods.
Secrecy is the name of the game with the Mars family. Like his father and siblings, Forrest Mars Jr. shunned the media spotlight. The family's mania for remaining out of the spotlight has, on occasion, had financial impact on the company. Since the 1980s, Mars and Hershey have been engaged in a battle for market share. The Mars family made a huge misstep when it turned down the product placement opportunity for M&Ms in E.T. Instead, Hershey's Reese's Pieces got the nod and Mars has been losing ground to them ever since.
Forrest Jr.'s hobbies included adventure travel and U.S. history. He retired from his executive duties at Mars Inc. in 1999 when he was 68 years old. He remained on the board of directors of the family business until 2006. During his retirement, Forrest Jr. took high school students on educational sailing trips to Antarctica. He also funded the expansion of Big Horn, Wyoming's art and history museum.
Forrest Mars Jr. is survived by his brother John, his sister Jacqueline, his third wife Jacomien, his four daughters Victoria, Valerie, Pamela and Marijke, 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Forrest Mars had a net worth of $23.4 billion, making him the 27th richest person in the world.