Update: Tom Stewart confirmed dead in Arizona helicopter crash

A commenter in our earlier story has forwarded a letter from Services Group of America confirming the helicopter-crash death of chair/owner Tom Stewart, whose company was headquartered in North Delridge until 2006. The Seattle Times (WSB partner) is now also quoting the company as confirming Mr. Stewart’s death, as well as 4 others who were on board the SGA-owned chopper that went down in Cave Creek, Arizona. Here’s the letter; if you can’t open the PDF, we’ve cut/pasted the text after the jump (added 3:23 pm, here’s the official company news release):

This is signed by Services Group president Peter Smith:

Yesterday, the Services Group of America family of companies lost a great leader. Our Chairman and CEO Tom Stewart perished in a tragic helicopter crash which occurred north of Phoenix at approximately 3 p.m.

While there are a number of unanswered questions surrounding the accident itself, there are no uncertainties
as to the future of our companies.

Looking at what happens now, Tom’s planning and vision for the company becomes more apparent. He had a
clear and concise continuity plan for the enterprise in place for all of our companies and was completely
confident in the current long-tenured leadership team. So confident, in fact, that he planned to go on the team
roping rodeo circuit in April.

With our people, our processes and our technology, we will continue our current operations without missing a
beat. That’s how Tom planned it and that’s what he wanted. We continue to be a privately-held, family-owned
business that offers the highest level of service in our industries. That will never change.

We have never been financially stronger, thanks to Tom’s decisive responses in the early stages of the current
recession, and our business model and operations will continue unchanged.

We lost a great leader and friend yesterday. Naturally, we will grieve for our loss. We will honor Tom by
continuing our tradition of excellence and customer service which is clearly stated in the Guiding Principle
that Tom founded the company with and that we live by everyday; “The Customer is the Boss. We work for
our customer, because ultimately they pay all of our salaries”.

32 Replies to "Update: Tom Stewart confirmed dead in Arizona helicopter crash"

  • SpeakLoud February 15, 2010 (2:49 pm)

    How sadly ironic, isn’t that one of the reasons they left? Because they wanted a helipad and we said no?

    • WSB February 15, 2010 (2:53 pm)

      Actually, the main reason cited was a Washington inheritance tax.

  • Divacreativa February 15, 2010 (3:15 pm)

    What a letter. All about money and business with a little bit of “grief” thrown in for good measure.

  • Meghan February 15, 2010 (3:17 pm)

    Even though he got his share of negative press, anyone who knew Tom personally knew he was a very humble, generous and giving man. And even though he was a staunch Republican, he respected everyones’ political views. He did a lot for the people of Vashon (including personally paying for extravagant annual fireworks displays himself) and his employees were always treated very well. What a tragedy. I suspect he will have left a great deal of many to deserving causes.

  • Jeff February 15, 2010 (3:51 pm)

    I knew Tom. I enjoyed our conversations and I was generally on the other side of his political views.

    Tom treated his employees very well and built a terrific business that could thrive even in the face of massive competition from companies exponentially larger. Take a look at the tenure of his staff and that should tell you everything you need to know about the company culture.

    Leaving Seattle had nothing whatsoever to do with a helipad in West Seattle. It had everything to do with a ridiculous inheritance tax that would have meant his heirs could not keep the company and that is the truth. Over time we will lose more great family owned businesses in Washington. Arizona will keep a great family owned business and continue to employ hundreds at the corporate office and thousands across the country.

    He was a joy to be around and when he left Western Washington we lost a great business and a great person. Now he is gone completely and that is very sad.

  • Friend of Tom\\\'s February 15, 2010 (5:02 pm)

    To Divacreativa’s comment: “What a letter. All about money and business with a little bit of “grief” thrown in for good measure.”

    There was much grief at Tom’s companies today. He will be terribly missed because he was an amazing person to work with and work for. There were several letters that went out today to Tom’s employees, telling of his death and the great loss we have all suffered. This letter is just one of several– one that was meant to reassure employees that Tom had a vision for his companies that went far beyond himself, that he had a succession plan, that he cared about each one of his employees, and that we do not have to worry about our jobs now that our owner has passed away. They set up grief counselors at work too, going far beyond any other major corporation that I’ve ever worked for. Tom will be missed, but his greatness will carry on — he truly cared about his employees and his customers, knowing that without customers we wouldn’t exist. Please don’t disparage something that you know nothing about, and let us have our grief without having to defend ourselves from the likes of you.

  • Larry February 15, 2010 (5:06 pm)

    Mr. Stewart hosted an anual republican (boo) picknick.I recall one year when Earthfair was on the same weekend and Tom donated a bunch of beef to feed earthfair volunteers.His Misty Isle Farm was directly across the street , he also let earthfair use his property for parking. I only met him once and he seemed to be a very kind man.

  • Michael February 15, 2010 (5:30 pm)

    I don’t care whether someone’s left, right or center, or whether or not they believe the rich have a right to keep every last penny of their money, it’s always sad when someone dies.

    Save the arguments for later.

  • Andrew February 15, 2010 (6:58 pm)

    Hurrah for comment by Friends of Tom\\\’s!!!!!

    Divacreativa’s comment is so typical of the ignorant people in this community that have no idea about building a business and putting people to work. Tom Stewart was an amazing businessman and a great man who gave to many. He will be missed.

  • shane February 15, 2010 (8:31 pm)

    Michael, thank you for that.

  • Howlin jdown February 15, 2010 (9:02 pm)

    I worked for Tom in the 90’s and have never worked for a better company. He treated his employees well. He hired Chuck Berry, Charlie Daniels and Tawnya Tucker to perform at our our Christmas parties and provide rooms free of charge if needed. The benefits were great and he cared about his employees, realizing happy employees are the key to a successful company-the first line ambassadors, so to speak. He always rewarded hard work. My condolences to the remainder of his family and friends. I will say a prayer for each of them.

  • Hank February 15, 2010 (9:30 pm)

    I went to one of Mr. Stewart’s picnics (at the Puyallup Fair).

    It was INCREDIBLE. So many folks from all over Washington and FUN. Loads of FUN. I never met so many interesting and happy folks!

    The generosity of Mr. Stewart was from that moment onward impressed in my mind. Afterwards, I called his home on Vashon Island and thanked his family.

    America is great because America is good.

    Mr. Stewart simply lived the American dream. I never met him. But I will never, never forget him.

    I am a better person today because of Mr. Stewart.

    Condolences to his family and loved ones.

    I am so sorry to hear this news.

  • S. Oregon FSA driver February 16, 2010 (3:57 am)

    Never got to meet Tom in the 5 years I have been with this company. This is a great company, and from what I have heard, he was and still “is” a great man. I feel for his sons, and my family will be praying for them all. God Speed Tom.

  • getreal February 16, 2010 (7:52 am)

    In response to Jeff, Tom did not HAVE to leave because of the inheritance tax. The company was big enough that the heirs certainly could have kept it and lived quite comfortably. After years of having a particularly low state tax burden, he decided he’d rather pay income tax in Arizona rather than inheritance tax in Washington. It’s certainly a business decision he was entitled to make, but get real.

  • bellachen February 16, 2010 (9:11 am)

    I have known the Stewart family for the past 23+ years. My father was the President of one of his companies and was a friend of Tom’s for many, many years. They traveled, fished, hunted, skied, rode Harleys, golfed together for years. Tom was very generous with everyone, including my family, and I will never ever forget that – even flying back to attend my fathers funeral just a few years ago. Tom was larger than life and a no nonsense kind of guy. Tom always made sure his employees were well taken care of, something that is few and far between these days. I am truly saddened for the tragic loss of Tom, Madena & Sydney. My heart aches for his adult children & family. He was a great man.

  • Joseph February 16, 2010 (10:08 am)

    While Mr. Stewart was I’m sure a great and generous family man and a joy to be around, he heavily and actively funded politicians and policies that made life incredibly and arguably unnecessarily more difficult for hundreds of thousands of others.

    That’s where the hard feelings come into play, I suspect. Still, crashing a helicopter is no way to leave this world, regardless of who’s side you are on. My condolences to the family, with best wishes for a more broadly responsible business outlook in the future.

  • David February 16, 2010 (10:12 am)

    Tom was a good Republican. Its a tragedy to see someone like that die.

  • Eraserhead February 16, 2010 (1:21 pm)

    Tom will be remembered for many things but most prominent here is his fight for the right to helicopter from Vashon to Delridge. Had he won that battle, the crash that took his life could have happened in West Seattle and resulted in even greater loss of life. His highly illegal campaign funding is not noted above but it cost his company a $5 million dollar fine. Washington State provided the seed for his business and enabled him to grow it into a billion dollar enterprise. It would not have been possible without roads, waterways, utilities and an educated workforce but he chose to leave the state after he made his money and he was waving the finger at us as he left. RIP

  • PK February 16, 2010 (1:42 pm)

    I personally benefitted from Tom Stewart’s generosity and know my life today is what it is because I received the education he helped to facilitate. I am forever grateful to him and, while I may not have politcally agree with him all the time, I respect and appreciate his unwavering willingness to be politically involved. The loss to his family, his employees, and his community is enormous and I ask that everyone who posts here respect that loss.

  • FSA_NOMO February 16, 2010 (4:19 pm)

    I too worked for Tom Stewart and was there when HE diverted OUR profit sharing funds to better suit his needs. We lost over 5 million dollars and this A-hole never said a word, and would not have to this day if someone hadn’t caught his nasty a*s. Having dealt first hand with him over the course of 12 years I can tell you he is arrogant, egotistical, selfish, and uncaring for the masses working for him. He thought he was above reproach. Yeah, real swell guy.

  • Ken Jean February 16, 2010 (6:22 pm)

    I have been fortunate to work for FSA for 3 years and Tom. He and his family have been fantastic and a pleasure to work for. They truly care about their employee’s, customers and business partners like no other company I have seen. He was a truly great man and helped us all be better poeple for our families & friends. I have been priveladged to be associated with him and his family.

  • FSAPDX February 16, 2010 (7:10 pm)

    I personally knew Tom am so sad to here all the negitive things, I can not belive what everyone is saying let his family morn am sure that you would not want your family to here this,if it was death in your family you would feel the same way my prayers go out to his family.Tom was a great leader and a friend.

  • anonymous February 16, 2010 (7:26 pm)

    So sad for anyone to judge someone they have never met or known on a personal level. (divacreativa) I have met Tom and when I was around him he was very kind and generous. He had a great sense of humor. My father has been employed by him for over 20yrs and loves his job. Politics aside, he was a father, a husband and a human being who donated a lot of his money to community of Vashon Island and beyond. My thoughts and prayers are with all his employees, family and friends who are grieving this loss.

  • anonymous February 16, 2010 (8:27 pm)

    The man left plenty of history behind to be judged. In my opinion there’s nothing sad or inappropriate about discussing the man’s legacy here. I resent people trying to quash public discussion about a very public man who lived large and had a big impact on this community. Apparently he did some good things, but he also did some very bad things intentionally. He was a tough unsentimental guy who wasn’t afraid to be judged. Here’s part of his obit in the Seattle Times. They didn’t think it appropriate to print this.

    “In 1998, he pleaded guilty in federal court to funneling $100,000 in illegal contributions to Republican candidates through SGA employees. He, his chief financial officer and SGA’s biggest unit, Food Services of America, agreed to pay $5 million in fines for 25 misdemeanor campaign-finance violations; it was the third-largest financial penalty in U.S. history for a violation of federal election laws.

    Mr. Stewart also was ordered to serve 60 days of home detention and work 160 hours in a homeless shelter. He was allowed to travel to work during his confinement but was barred from using the helicopter.

    In 2003, SGA officials agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle a class-action lawsuit alleging mismanagement of the company’s profit-sharing retirement plan.”

    I don’t think you needed to know him personally to have an opinion about him based on these public facts.

  • Richard February 16, 2010 (8:28 pm)

    I grew up with Mr. Stewart’s (now) adult children…we had many good times on Vashon (as kids do) and my thoughts and prayers are with them and their families during this tough time.

  • Larry Goss February 17, 2010 (5:25 pm)

    I met Tom Stewart at a rodeo in Fallon Nevada 2 years ago. I did not know a thing about him, we had dinner at the Stockmens, I mentioned to him I was looking for some type of work. A year later out of the blue Tom gave me a call, told me to come to Scottsdale he might have something for me. I am just a cowboy and when I showed up at this huge building I was speechless. He took me up to his office sat me down and made me feel at home, cowboy boots, dirty jeans and all. I will never forget this guy. LG

  • Sarah February 18, 2010 (12:08 pm)

    Tom you truely we’re a WONDERFUL man!

  • Kelly February 18, 2010 (2:17 pm)

    Thomas J. Stewart (1945-2010) http://memorial.sgagroup.com/home.aspx

  • AC February 18, 2010 (4:23 pm)

    What of the pilot? I went to school on Vashon with his kids. I haven’t been able to find out the details yet.

  • MB February 18, 2010 (4:29 pm)

    Amongst all the back and forth bickering, all I can think of is that little girl…so sad.

  • nathan francis February 18, 2010 (7:05 pm)

    I also worked for tom .grew up on vashon with his sons and daughter .h
    is pilot Rick morton was also killed in the crash his children kip and brenda have been friends of mine since we were kids im sorry for the loss of there fathers both good men.

  • arizona personal trainer February 21, 2010 (4:45 pm)

    What a sad news,the man is very influential,I know him because he is famous and a good leader also..My dad used to work at tom’s company before and he told me how good Tom was…Well,accident always come…I’ll pray for him and his family also…

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