L.S. "Sam" Skaggs--Business Leader, Philanthropist
| Mar 21, 2013 11:00 AM
L.S. “Sam” Skaggs was a truly remarkable and generous man – and one of the Health Sciences greatest benefactors and friends. On behalf of all of us at the Health Sciences, I offer our deepest condolences to his wife, Aline, their children, Susie Balukoff, Claudia Skaggs Luttrell, Mark Skaggs, Don Skaggs, and all their family members and friends.
Many of you know Mr. Skaggs through his kind donations to the College of Pharmacy, which began in the early 1960s with construction of L.S. Skaggs Hall and continues up to today with the new L.S. Skaggs Pharmacy Institute. Named in honor of Sam Skaggs, this new institute, which opens next month, will stand in tribute to his vision, kindness and dedication to promoting scientific discoveries that benefit people worldwide.
The story of how Mr. Skaggs grew a small group of family stores into one of the largest food and drug chains in the country, American Stores is legend in the business world—and deservedly so. Many people would be satisfied knowing they grew a small family business into the second largest food company in the world – but not L.S. “Sam” Skaggs.
Even as he built a chain comprising more than 1,700 stores with annual revenue of $22.2 billion, Sam Skaggs wanted to do more – much more. So he used his wealth to help charitable organizations, institutes, and universities undertake research and projects to benefit people worldwide. In the past 50-plus years, he, his wife, Aline, and the ALSAM Foundation, named in honor of Aline and Sam, have given hundreds of millions of dollars to education through scholarships, school construction, and health donations to research institutes and universities, including generous gifts to construct L.S. Skaggs Sr. Hall, which has housed the University of Utah’s highly ranked College of Pharmacy since 1964, and the new Skaggs Pharmacy Institute, named in honor of Sam. His generosity toward pharmacy schools and research was foreshadowed in his youth in Eastern Idaho, where he worked for his father, L.S. Skaggs Sr., in the family’s chain of stores. Sam harbored dreams of becoming a pharmacist. That was not to be, however, and at 26 he found himself running the family business after his father’s death in 1950.
Founded by his Baptist minister grandfather as a single grocery store in 1915, the business had grown to include 11 outlets when Sam assumed leadership. He immediately showed the remarkable business acumen and innovative spirit with which he would build the chain of Skaggs Drugs Centers and then what would become one of the largest U.S. grocery/pharmacy chains, American Stores. First, he began selling low-profit margin goods on a cash-and-carry basis, accommodating the seasonal incomes of area farmers and allowing him to offer lower prices than his competitors. Selling for cash also had another advantage by limiting the risk of customers defaulting on credit accounts. Second, he set up identical stores in multiple locations, enabling him to buy merchandise in larger lots at greater discounts, markedly increasing sales.
The growth in business that followed these strategies would help make the Skaggs name familiar on hundreds of storefronts throughout the United States – and there was much more to come. One more of Sam’s innovations would revolutionize the industry and change the way American’s shop with a straightforward idea that had never been tried: combining grocery and drugstores under one roof. In the following decades, American Stores would acquire chains such as Alpha Beta, Sav-On Drugs, Jewel-Osco, Lucky Stores and others as it grew into a powerhouse in the food and drugstore industry.
In 1995, after 45 years of building not only a business empire but also an extraordinary legacy of giving, Sam retired and the family sold its stake in the company several years later. As his business fortunes flourished over the course of more than five decades, business success wasn’t his only priority. During this time, he and his family established a tradition of giving that helped propel the University of Utah College of Pharmacy to become one of the world’s top programs.
In 1964, a generous gift from Sam helped build L.S. Skaggs Sr. Hall, giving the College of Pharmacy a home and facility to conduct world-class research. His and his family’s generosity continues today through a $20 million donation from the ALSAM Foundation and $10 million from Sam, personally, critical gifts in building the Skaggs Pharmacy Institute, which symbolically adjoins L.S. Skaggs Sr. Hall in tribute to father and son.
Please join me in remembering Mr. Skaggs in your thoughts and in sending our sympathy to his family. His legacy is one that each of us in our own way will strive to continue.
Author: Vivian S. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A.
About the Author: Dr. Vivian S. Lee is the Senior Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of Utah, Dean of the University of Utah School of Medicine, and CEO of University of Utah Health Care. Read her full bio herecomments powered by Disqus