(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 14) Sam Perricone, founder of Los Angeles-based Perricone Farms and other citrus-related businesses, has died. He was 91.
Frieda Caplan, founder and board chairwoman of Frieda’s, said Perricone was a mentor to many in the business community.
“It was through one of Sam’s many trading companies that Frieda’s shipped the first container of kiwifruit to Japan,” Caplan said. “There was no official trade at the time between Japan and New Zealand.”
“Sam backed so many businesses,” she said. “He’s a legend in the industry. People would say, ‘He helped me do this, he helped me do that.’ Sam was everywhere and never turned anybody down. He was just one of those people.”
Perricone, who died July 8, started his produce career selling lemons from the back of a truck.
By age 16 in the mid-1930s he was picking, packing and selling in the city’s Grand Central Market. It was the first in a series of steps that led to the creation of Perricone Farms 60 years later, according to the company’s website.
Perricone formed P&W Citrus with Warren Santino in 1938, and established Sam Perricone Citrus Co. in 1947. By the 1950s he owned thousands of acres of citrus groves.
Sam Perricone Citrus Co. was sold in 1998 to Fresh America Corp. Perricone remained active in it for a while. Fresh America closed the Los Angeles facility in 2000 as part of a reorganization, but continued in the citrus business as Fresh America Allied-Perricone.
In the early 1980s, Perricone acquired an extraction plant and moved into the fresh-squeezed juice business. Juices later became Perricone Farms’ signature product.
His career was marked by enduring links to the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. After the Fresh America acquisition, Perricone continued to work daily at the north-end office his produce operation had moved into when the new market opened in 1986.
This time he focused on farming operations and managing ranches for Sam Perricone Properties. Those lands produced about 1 million boxes a year in oranges, lemons and avocados, marketed by Sunkist Growers and Cal Flavor.
In 2002, he won the Spirit of Life award from the City of Hope hospital and cancer research facility in Duarte, Calif.
Perricone is survived by a sister, Mary Santoro; a brother, Tony Perricone; and by three children, Joe, Sam and Lucy. He also has 18 grandchildren, 34 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
“Sam Perricone will certainly be missed,” produce marketing veteran Dick Keim said in an e-mail.
Memorial donations were to go to St. John of God, Los Angeles; the Villa Scalabrini Retirement Center, Sun Valley; or the Franciscan Renewal Center, Scottsdale, Ariz.
For more coverage on Sam Perricone, visit the Orange County Register.
(CORRECTION: This article originally contained an incorrect photo. The Packer regrets the error.)