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Oilman Robert Earl Holding dies at 86

SALT LAKE CITY -- 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 died Friday in Salt Lake City after suffering lingering complications of a 2002 stroke, Clint Ensign, senior vice president of the Sinclair Companies, said Sunday. Holding actively oversaw his businesses until he slowed down a couple of years ago, Ensign said.

The Utah native's estimated net worth of $3.2 billion made him the 423rd wealthiest person in the world at the time of his death, according to Forbes.

Not bad for a man who did not invest in stocks after his parents lost everything in the 1929 stock market crash when he was just 3. Holding also worked full time by the time he reached high school and only went to high school half time as a result.

"He was a lion of a man," Ensign told The Associated Press.

Holding first tasted success after becoming manager of the struggling Little America truck stop and hotel near Green River, Wyo., in 1952. After revitalizing the business and becoming its owner, he opened other Little Americas in Cheyenne, Wyo., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Salt Lake City.

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 in 22 states in the West and Midwest. The company also operates two major refineries in Wyoming.

Holding later purchased the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho and Snowbasin Resort in Utah, as well as sprawling ranches in Wyoming and Montana. He owned 400,000 acres in 2010, making him the 19th greatest land holder in the U.S., according to BusinessInsider.com.

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