SALT LAKE CITY — Prominent Utah businessman and philanthropist L.S. Skaggs died of natural causes at his home early Thursday. He was 89.
Leonard Samuel "Sam" Skaggs Jr. will be remembered with gratitude "for all he has done for us," said Galey Colosimo, principal at Juan Diego Catholic High School, the beneficiary of a sizable donation for its 57-acre facility in Draper.
The Skaggs Catholic Center also houses St. John the Baptist Middle School, St. John the Baptist Elementary School, Guardian Angel Daycare and the St. John the Baptist Parish Catholic Church.
"He was a lifelong Baptist and was converting to Catholicism when the need arose in our diocese to build a school," Colosimo said. "It's a sad day."
Skaggs, the son of Samuel Olnie "L.S." Skaggs, inherited his father's line of 11 retail drug stores at the age of 26 in 1949. By 1978, the business had grown to 202 stores and 39 supercenters in 21 states. It later became the foundation for the American Stores brand, including Safeway, Albertsons, Alpha Beta, Long's Drugs, PayLess Drug Stores and more.
The L.S. Skaggs Hall, named for his father in 1964, and L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Institute, named for Skaggs in 2009, stand together as part of the University of Utah's College of Pharmacy.
The benefactor and his wife, Aline Wilmont Skaggs, made a large financial contribution through the family's ALSAM Foundation to BYU's Harold B. Lee Library for the Special Collections section that is named for L. Tom Perry, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Skaggs was the grandson of a poor Baptist minister. He grew up in Yakima, Wash., and lived in Idaho, California and, ultimately, Utah, which became headquarters to the American Stores Co.
American Stores was acquired by Albertsons in 1998 and moved to Arizona. Its holdings have since been split into three companies — including Albertsons, SUPERVALU and CVS Caremark Corp.
Skaggs was studying to become a pharmacist at Westminster College but left to serve in the Army in World War II. Experiences with chaplains in Europe later led to his conversion to Catholicism.
A 1984 Associated Press article mentions Skaggs as "a private person" and "a wizard at acquisition." It states that in his working years, Skaggs had great enthusiasm for his work, a management style that pays great attention to detail, but that he ran the company "bare bones," offering no company cars or credit cards.
The family businesses, run by strict frugality, have also been said to have survived the Great Depression by only accepting cash for transactions throughout the economically tumultuous times.
Much like Skaggs and his local philanthropy, the family operates numerous foundations, of which ALSAM is the largest. It has given hundreds of millions of dollars to education and health research by way of scholarships, establishment of research centers and the Skaggs Catholic Center.
Funeral services for Skaggs are pending.