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Forrest Mars Jr., who shaped global Mars candy empire, has died

Forrest E. Mars Jr., who helped shape Mars Inc. into a multibillion-dollar confectionary empire with brands such as M&M’s and Snickers bars, has died. He was 84.

The retired Mars co-president died Tuesday in Seattle of complications from a heart attack, the company said. He had been living in Sheridan, Wyo.

With his brother and sister, Mars inherited the company in 1973 from their father, Forrest E. Mars Sr. Their grandfather started the company more than a century ago, making and selling butter cream candy from his kitchen in Tacoma, Wash.

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Named co-president with his brother John in 1975, Forrest Mars helped increased annual sales from $1 billion to $35 billion and expanded they company’s reach internationally. The company, which sells Pedigree pet food, Skittles candy and Uncle Ben’s Rice, among other products, now has more than 80,000 employees in 78 countries.

Born in 1931 in Oak Park, Ill., Mars attended private schools and earned his bachelor’s degree from Yale University in 1953 and a graduate degree from New York University School of Business in 1958.

After serving in the U.S. Army for two years, he went to work as an accountant. He then joined the family business as a financial staff officer for M&M Candies and ascended from there. He retired from the company in 1999 and served as a board member until 2006.

He is survived by his wife and four children.

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