Potato billionaire J.R. Simplot dies at 99

05/27/2008 12:00:00 AM
David Mitchell

(May 27, 3:45 p.m.) J.R. Simplot, the founder of one of the nation’s largest privately held companies, has died at age 99.

The self-made billionaire founded Simplot Produce Co. in 1930 and started a dehydrating business three years later. Those businesses and others eventually became Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.

His son, company chairman Scott Simplot, told The Idaho Statesman that the family had no plans to take the company public following his father’s death from natural causes on May 25.

The Statesman reported that the company has about $3 billion in annual sales and about 10,000 employees worldwide with businesses ranging from potato, vegetable and fruit processing, to seed production and distribution, fertilizer production and distribution, mining, ranching and feedlots.

Forbes estimated Simplot’s personal fortune at $3.6 billion last year.

Simplot’s dehydrating business boomed as a supplier to the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. After the war, the company expanded into freezing and canning. Simplot’s company is credited with being the first to develop frozen french fries in the 1940s, according to The Associated Press, and the company’s sales increased in the 1960s when it became a leading potato supplier for McDonald’s.

Simplot retired as chairman of the board in 1994.

Survivors include his wife, Esther; sons Scott and Don; daughter Gay; and 18 grandchildren.



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