Huggins, Who Built Candy Business for Buffett, Dies at 87

Charles “Chuck” Huggins, who Warren Buffett called one of his best hires after naming him to run Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s See’s Candies in 1972, has died. He was 87.

Huggins died on Aug. 19 at his home in Larkspur, California, after a stroke, his wife Donna Huggins said yesterday in a telephone interview.

Berkshire “put Chuck Huggins in charge of See’s about five minutes after we bought the company,” Buffett said in a letter to his firm’s shareholders published in 1989. “Upon reviewing his record, you may wonder what took us so long.”

Huggins worked at See’s for 55 years, most of that time as chief executive officer, until his retirement in 2006. His accomplishments as a manager were praised frequently by Buffett, who in 1988 illustrated Huggins’s commitment to customers after See’s upset some of its devotees by eliminating two candies. Huggins reintroduced the sweets and sent a letter to each person who complained, along with a gift certificate, according to a separate Buffett letter.

“Selecting him remains one of our best business decisions,” Buffett, Berkshire’s chairman and CEO, said in a 1986 letter.

Huggins, a graduate of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, built See’s into a business with more than 200 stores and greater than $300 million in sales, according to a death notice published on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website. See’s increased profits more than 10-fold during his tenure, Buffett said in 2006.

Masterful Executive

“Chuck Huggins was masterful at managing the See’s Candies business,” Brad Kinstler, the candy maker’s current CEO, said in an e-mail. “We were all saddened to hear the news of his passing, and extend our thoughts and prayers to his family.”

Jazz and bird watching were among Huggins’s hobbies. He enjoyed having “serious fun” and “just going for it,” his wife said. At 86, he got a tattoo on his arm of a black cat with a parachute carrying a machine gun, a symbol of the U.S. Army unit he served in during World War II.

“He did not wince once during the entire process,” Donna Huggins said. “And it was a big tattoo.”

Born in Vancouver to American parents in 1925, Huggins was raised in Portland, Oregon.

In addition to his wife, Huggins is survived by sister Ruth Slack; sons Peter Huggins and Charles “Chip” Huggins; daughters Anne Huggins Walton and Shelley Huggins Dutton; and nine grandchildren, according to the death notice.

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