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Jack Taylor, founder of Enterprise Holdings and leading philanthropist, dies at 94

Jack Taylor, founder of Enterprise Holdings and leading philanthropist, dies at 94

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Jack Crawford Taylor, who turned a fleet of seven cars into the world’s largest rent-a-car company and donated more than $860 million to charity, died Saturday (July 2, 2016). He was 94.

The founder of Enterprise Holdings died after a short illness, the company said in a statement. Mr. Taylor lived in Ladue.

Mr. Taylor flew Hellcat fighter planes for the Navy during World War II. Twelve years after founding his business, he renamed it for the carrier Enterprise, one of two flattops he served on in the Pacific theater.

He started the company as Executive Leasing Co. in 1957 in partnership with the Lindburg Cadillac dealership in Clayton, where he was sales manager. Its first business was lending cars to motorists whose vehicles were being repaired. Executive expanded with neighborhood-based branches for general rentals.

Today, Enterprise Holdings Inc. is a far-flung network of companies that lease, lend and sell cars and trucks to individuals and companies.

It is the largest privately held business in the St. Louis area, with annual revenue of $19.4 billion and more than 93,000 employees worldwide. Its fleet of 1.7 million vehicles is the world’s largest.

Mr. Taylor was founder and former president, chief executive and board chairman. He served on the board until 2007 but remained as an adviser.

Forbes magazine has estimated Mr. Taylor’s wealth at $5.8 billion, which put him 248th on its list of richest people.

Mr. Taylor was one of the area’s best-known and most generous philanthropists, having personally donated more than $860 million to many local institutions over the past three decades.

In total, Mr. Taylor, his family and foundations have made more than $1 billion in gifts. He was ranked number 11 on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s 2015 “Philanthropy 50” list of America’s top donors.

“I don’t know anything about philanthropy,” he told the Post-Dispatch in 2001, when he and his son Andy were named the Citizens of the Year in St. Louis. “All I know is philanthropy is giving money away.”

He said he was a man with a lot of money and a long memory.

Recalling his childhood field trips to the St. Louis Symphony, he pledged $40 million in 2000 when he heard it was in financial straits. Because he enjoyed watching football at Francis Field as a youngster, he gave $25 million in 2011 to help minority and disadvantaged students at Washington University.

He remembered fun times in Forest Park and raised $6 million to renovate the park and its top attraction, the St. Louis Zoo.

“He’d often relate memories of his own childhood, visiting the old boathouse and how much fun it was to rent the old electric boats,” said Lesley Hoffarth, president of Forest Park Forever.

That inspired him to give his first gift to the park in the 1990s, which paid for renovating the boathouse.

“He truly loved Forest Park. He’d talk about sledding on Art Hill. He loved seeing families enjoying the park,” she said.

That love led to further gifts.

Last year, his family donated $124 million to 22 local institutions and charities. The gifts include $30 million to Forest Park Forever to maintain the park, $25 million to CityArchRiver for the Arch grounds renovation, $6 million to the Fisher House Foundation to build lodging at Veterans Affairs hospitals for families of patients, and $5 million to the St. Louis Art Museum Foundation.

There also were gifts of $5 million to Ranken Technical College for low-income students, $2 million each to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater St. Louis and to the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern Missouri for low-income students, and $1 million each to the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis and to Our Little Haven, which cares for young victims of abuse.

In October, the company agreed to pay $158 million for the naming rights of a new NFL stadium proposed for construction on the riverfront just north of downtown. The stadium project was canceled when the St. Louis Rams moved back to Los Angeles.

The foundation has provided more than $100 million to environmental efforts, including $35 million to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, $30 million to the Missouri Botanical Garden and a $50 million commitment to plant 50 million trees over 50 years.

He also gave $10 million to the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Fla.

For many years, most of the Taylor donations were through the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Foundation, managed by his daughter, Jo Ann Kindle. The company donated more than 1 percent of its annual profits to charity.

Mr. Taylor said he ultimately realized that the old saw, “I gave at the office,” wasn’t good enough. For one thing, he said, “I didn’t want people to think the Taylor family is making all that money and doesn’t do a damn thing for the city.”

He also said wanted clients and prospective employees to see St. Louis as big-league, with good sports teams, cultural centers and educational institutions.

Mr. Taylor often donated money anonymously or in ways that wouldn’t call attention to him. But that became harder to do when writing big checks. Hoping to persuade others to give, he began making “challenge” grants, in which each dollar had to be matched by another’s gift.

Mr. Taylor grew up in University City and Ladue and graduated from Clayton High School in 1940. He briefly attended Westminster College in Fulton and Washington University, but dropped out after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and enlisted in the Navy in 1942. He was assigned to Carrier Air Group 15, credited with 2.5 combat “kills” and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Navy Air Medal.

Most of his war service was on the Essex. But he also flew from the Enterprise, one of the Navy’s most storied ships. Known as the “Big E,” it was built before World War II, served throughout the conflict and was the most decorated ship in the fleet during the war.

He returned to St. Louis and started a small trucking company in Clayton. In 1948, he got a sales job at Lindburg Cadillac. He founded Executive Leasing with seven vehicles nine years later.

At the time, other car-rental companies focused on the lucrative business at airports. Mr. Taylor first sought customers whose vehicles were in the shop for repairs, then expanded with general rentals and neighborhood-based lots for short-term rentals to individuals.

The company became Enterprise Leasing in 1969 and Enterprise Rent-A-Car in 1989. In 2007, it bought Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental. Two years later, the company became Enterprise Holdings. Today, it is the parent company of Alamo, National, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Enterprise Fleet Management, Enterprise Truck Rental, Enterprise Car Sales and Enterprise CarShare.

Mr. Taylor’s son, Andy Taylor, succeeded him as chief executive officer in 1991 and became chairman when his father retired from management in 2001.

Mr. Taylor acknowledged that he didn’t make a lot of use of the culture that he and his family supported so generously. He was not a classical music fan. He owned season tickets to the Cardinals, Blues and Rams but often gave them away.

“I’m not a very artsy sort of guy,” he explained.

He was married twice.

In addition to his son and daughter, survivors include five granddaughters and three great-granddaughters.

Funeral services will be private. Condolences may be sent via email to

The family requests that memorial contributions be made to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Forest Park Forever or the St. Louis Symphony.


Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the current names of Enterprise Truck Rental and Enterprise CarShare.

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Related to this story

The F6F Hellcat fighter was such a dominant aircraft during World War II that it was the star of the only movie President Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy Davis ever made together, 1957's “Hellcats of the Navy.” That's the same plane Jack Crawford Taylor piloted in the U.S. Navy from the decks of the USS Essex and the USS Enterprise, earning himself two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Navy Air Medal.

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