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CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jack Eckerd, a businessman who turned three drug stores into a multimillion-dollar, 2,000-plus store empire, and later became a civic leader and philanthropist, died here yesterday at the age of 91.
Eckerd started the Clearwater-based Eckerd Drug Stores in 1952 with three stores. By 1971 he had 240 outlets in four states, plus a chain of 21 department stores and other subsidiary firms.
He was chairman of Jack Eckerd Corp., which by 1975 had ballooned to 465 drug stores in 10 states, with 12,000 employees and 60 optical centers in Florida, a foodservice equipment and supply firm, and a security services company.
J.C. Penney purchased the drug store chain in 1996 and is in the process of selling it to rivals CVS Corp. and Jean Contu Group, Inc.
Born May 16, 1913, in Wilmington, Del. to the son of a wealthy drug store owner, Eckerd set his sights at age 20 on becoming a millionaire in his own right. In 1952 he moved to Florida and bought three rundown drugstores for $150,000. The chain now has more than 2,600 stores in 20 states.
He amassed a fortune, estimated by Fortune magazine in 1975 to be worth $150 million, which in turn financed many causes, including Eckerd College, a private liberal arts college in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Ruth Eckerd Hall, a performing arts center in Clearwater.