Forrest Mars, Jr. was a businessman, a philanthropist, a visionary who believed in the benefits of a global economy, and a leader who created a strong set of business values that continue to lead Mars today.
He passed away last week at the age of 84.
“Forrest was a great inspiration to all of us at Mars, Inc.,” says Grant Reid, ceo and office of the president. “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.”
Mars was many things, among them a business who, along with his brother John and sister Jacqueline, inherited a sizeable business and grew it into one of the world's largest and most respected family firms. Under Mars' leadership, the company increased its sales from $1 billion to $35 billion, now providing 80,000 jobs in 78 countries worldwide.
He was a passionate believer in the benefits of a global economy for everyone, devoting much of his and his brother's working lives to building Mars internationally, first in Europe, Australia and Japan and then in China, Russia, Mexico, and Brazil.
The legacy he leaves behind includes, among other things, the set of business values he championed for the sake of creating mutuality of benefits for all stakeholders. Those values, codified into The Five Principles – Quality, Mutuality, Responsibility, Efficiency, and Freedom – continue to guide Mars, Inc. worldwide.
Mars was a philanthropist, supporting environmental preservation projects like the American Prairie Reserve along with other projects in support of American history. His work has impacted museums like the Brinton Museum of Western and American Indian Art in Wyoming and provided the Mars Hall of American Business at the American History Museum.
He was an explorer who loved adventuring, navigating the North West passage in his expedition ship as well as sponsoring (and often joining) annual trips to Antarctica for students from his old school, Hotchkiss.
But most of all, he was an intensely private family man who leaves his wife, four children, eleven grandchildren, two great grandchildren, and numerous other extended family members, as well as a legacy as a man who insisted everyone's work be fun and meaningful.
Mars' career and background
Mars began his career in 1955 as a certified public accountant with Price Waterhouse after serving two years in the United States Army. He joined Mars, then a business of less than $100 million in revenue, in 1959 as a financial staff officer for M&M's Candies.
His journey to bring Mars to new geographies began two years later when he was appointed general manager of a new factory to be built in Veghel, Netherlands. Mars oversaw the construction of what is now one of the largest chocolate factories in the world. He managed the plant until 1966, when he moved to France to become managing director of Mars France.
During his four-year tenure in Paris, the company expanded its pet food business by acquiring Unisabi and created a strong foundation for future growth in France. Today, the company has more than 20 sites in France and provides direct employment for thousands.
Mars moved to McLean, Va. in 1970 to assume responsibility for the company's confectionery operations as group v.p., working alongside his brother John. The two took joint responsibility for all company functions in 1975 when they became co-presidents of Mars, Inc. Under their joint leadership, the company continued to expand, opening new markets and launching new brands.
In 1983, Mars and his siblings formalized and published The Five Principles of Mars, based on a business objective first expressed by their father, Forrest Mars, Sr., in 1947. The goal was to create mutual benefits that make a difference for people and the planet through the company's performance. Those principles continue to guide Mars, Inc. and unite associates across generations, geographies, languages, and cultures.
Following his retirement in 1999, Mars continued to provide guidance and counsel to the company's business leaders. He served as a member of the Board of Directors until 2006, on the audit and remuneration committees, and remained active in the Mars Foundation.
Outside of the company, he was heavily involved in philanthropic ventures with the Fay and Hotchkiss Schools, the Williamsburg Foundation, and Yale University.