This is tragic, and hits close to home. I’ve known Tom Stewart for a number of years, and was always impressed by his commitment to the American Dream. He was a guy who put his money where his mouth was, walked the walked, talked the talk. He was a freedom fighter.
No one will ever know how much of an impact he had on conservatism in America, because no one person knows all the different things in which he engaged. What small part I saw in that world was impressive by itself, but I know it was just a smidgen of his influence.
Tom Stewart was a “great American” before being a great American was cool. Not only did he create thousands and thousands of jobs, he worked hard at protecting the system that allowed him to be successful. He didn’t just take his piece of the pie, he made sure there was a bigger pie left behind.
When I learned of his death, it rattled me. Bad. I realize now it is because it is not just the passing of a man, but the passing of era.
Our prayers go out to the families of Tom and Madena Stewart. RIP.
An updated story here. The official statement from SGA below.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (Feb. 15, 2010) – Services Group of America (SGA) has announced that Chairman & CEO Thomas J. Stewart was killed in a helicopter accident yesterday (Feb. 14) north of Scottsdale at approximately 3 p.m.
The company helicopter was en route to Scottsdale Air Park from the Flagstaff area when it crashed in a desert wash.
A total of five passengers were aboard the helicopter when it departed from the Flagstaff area. Authorities conducted a thorough ground and air search of the crash area Sunday afternoon and into the night. They are certain there were no survivors. Authorities are advising that it will take some time to identify all of the passengers.
The cause of the crash is not known at this time and the company is working closely with the investigating agencies.
Stewart, 64, was a long-time philanthropist who supported education and the arts; a community activist championing free enterprise; a life-long adventurer; and a foodservice industry leader.
Services Group of America is a $2.7 billion company which is ranked 157th on the Forbes’ Largest Private Companies in the U.S. list. The company is the parent company of a number of companies including Food Services of America, Systems Services of America, Amerifresh, Ameristar Meats and Development Services of America. The roots of the company go back 40 years when Stewart was building Stevedoring Services of America in Seattle.
He moved the corporate headquarters from Seattle to Scottsdale in 2006.
The company is privately-held and family-owned, a structure that will not change despite the accident, according to Peter K. Smith, president and COO of SGA.
“Tom was first and foremost a visionary,” he said. “He had a clear and concise continuity plan for the enterprise in place and was completely confident in the current leadership team.”
“With our people, our processes and our technology, we will continue our current operations without missing a beat,” said Smith. “That’s how Tom planned it and that’s what he wanted. We continue to be a privately-held, family-owned business that offers the highest level of service in our industries. That will never change.”
Stewart was known for being a deft financier and a calculating risk taker. During his career, he formed or acquired 45 companies; sold or spun-off 22; merged 18 into other companies and closed 79. He is legendary for his epic adventures including a horseback trip with his family riding the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest trail from Mexico to Canada and a jeep safari across the continent of Africa. He was an avid golfer, horseman, rancher, fisherman, skier, scuba diver and team roper.
The Stewart family is currently making memorial service arrangements which will be announced at a later date.
For more historical information on SGA and Tom Stewart, go to www.servicesgroupofamerica.com