Forrest E. Mars Jr., one of three siblings who inherited the Mars consumer packaged goods business and grew it into one of the world’s largest family firms, with sales of more than $35 billion, died on July 26 at the age of 84.
He devoted much of his life to building McLean, Va.-based Mars Inc. internationally, expanding its presence first in Europe, Australia and Japan, and then to such countries as Russia, China, Mexico and Brazil, as well as in the Middle East. The company currently employs 80,000 associates in 78 countries.
Along with his brother, John, and sister, Josephine, he codified a set of business values about creating a mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders of the company into The Five Principles — Quality, Mutuality, Responsibility, Efficiency and Freedom – that continue to guide the business globally.
“Forrest was a great inspiration to all of us at Mars Inc.,” said Grant F. Reid, CEO and president of Mars. “He was instrumental in building our business, while remaining committed to the founding principles of the company. Forrest will be sorely missed, but his contributions and the legacy he leaves behind at Mars will be long-lasting.”
Forrest Mars was also a noted philanthropist, lending his support to environmental preservation projects and numerous organizations dedicated to preserving American history, among other endeavors.
Born in 1931 in Oak Park, Ill., Mars began his career in 1955 as a certified public accountant, working as an auditor for Price Waterhouse after a two-year stint in the U.S. Army. He joined Mars Inc. as a financial staff officer for M&M’s Candies in 1959. Eventually rising to the role of co-president with his brother, Mars retired in 1999, but continued to provide guidance and counsel to the company’s business leaders. He was a member of the board of directors until 2006, working on the audit and remuneration committees, and remained active in the Mars Foundation.
An adventurer who enjoyed taking part in expeditions to such far-flung places as Antartica, Mars received honors from France and Russia.
Survivors include his wife, four children, eleven grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and many other extended family members. The funeral will be private.