U-Haul founder Leonard Shoen dead at 83
LAS VEGAS – Leonard S. Shoen, who revolutionized the do-it-yourself moving industry by founding U-Haul International Inc., apparently committed suicide by driving his car into a power pole. He was 83.
The Clark County coroner’s office ruled Tuesday that Schoen died from blunt force trauma and that his death was a suicide.
”There is no reason for the accident,” Metro Police Detective Rick Hart said. ”Nobody else was around. ”They determined that it looked like suicide.”
Police said Shoen was driving his 1994 Acura southbound on a Henderson street shortly before 11:25 a.m. Monday when the car left the road for no apparent reason and struck a wooden power pole.
Hart said the accident is still under investigation.
Shoen founded Phoenix-based U-Haul in 1945 and built it into the most recognized self-moving company in the nation with its signature orange and white trucks.
In 1986, Shoen’s sons – Joe and Mark – forced their father into retirement and pushed for control of the parent company, Reno-based Amerco Inc.
The move triggered a bitter family feud that ended in a $1.5 billion jury award for Leonard Shoen and other ”outsiders.” A judge later reduced the award to $461 million, and the company then sought bankruptcy protection from the debt.
Since the shakeup at U-Haul, Shoen lived in Las Vegas, where he owned the World Trade Center hotel since 1996. He withdrew his application with the Nevada Gaming Commission for a gaming license in May.
At the age of 29, after serving in the Navy during World War II, Shoen came up with the idea to provide do-it-yourself one-way moving trailers on a nationwide basis.
With an initial investment of $5,000, he and his then-wife Anna Mary Carty started the company at the Carty Ranch in Ridgefield, Wash., where they built the first U-Haul trailers in a milk house in 1945.
His concept for U-Haul was developed out of a need to provide inexpensive means of moving a post-World War II American population that had become migratory, especially to the Western United States, according to the company’s website.
The original U-Haul trailers were painted bright orange and rented for $2 a day. By 1949 it was possible to rent U-Haul trailers one way from city to city throughout most of the United States.
Today the company has 14,000 independent dealers and 1,100 company-owned moving centers. It is the leading company in the truck and trailer rental industry and the second-largest self-storage facility operator. U-Haul also is the world’s largest installer of permanent hitches.
In addition to his two sons, Shoen is survived by his wife, Carol, a brother, three sisters and 11 other children.