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‘Great entrepreneur of the West’ Holding dies

Billionaire Robert Earl Holding, whose business empire included ownership of Sinclair Oil and two world-class ski resorts in the West, has died. He was 86.

Holding actively oversaw his businesses until he slowed down a couple of years ago, Clint Ensign, senior vice president of the Sinclair Companies, said Sunday.

“He was the All-American success story, someone who came from humble beginnings and through hard work and good management created some wonderful businesses,” Ensign told the Associated Press. “He truly was one of the great entrepreneurs of the West.”

Holding first tasted success after becoming manager of the struggling Little America truck stop and hotel near Green River, Wyo., in 1952. He revitalized it, bought it and then opened others.

But Holding’s boldest moves came when he acquired a Mobil refinery in Casper, Wyo., in 1968 and Sinclair Oil in 1976. Sinclair Oil, based in Salt Lake City, now has 2,700 independently owned stations across the West and Midwest.

Holding later bought the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho and Snowbasin Resort in Utah. He owned 400,000 acres in 2010, making him the 19th greatest land holder in the U.S., according to

When Holding bought Sun Valley in central Idaho in 1977, he faced skepticism among locals about his plans for the famous resort. But he never sold it, and instead poured in money to refurbish Sun Valley Lodge and Sun Valley Inn to make it a modern destination that continues to draw world travelers.

“Earl was an incredible builder,” former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson told The Salt Lake Tribune.

“He had huge dreams and seemed to turn them all into reality.”

Holding helped lure the 2002 Winter Games to Salt Lake Cityby building the upscale Grand America Hotel and by turning Snowbasin into a top venue able to host downhill skiing competitions. But he was bounced from the organizing committee board after his private jets were used to fly some International Olympic Committee members who took excessive gifts from Salt Lake’s bid committee before the games were awarded in 1995.