A Remarkable Story of Success in Business and in Life

earl holding

By A. Scott Anderson, DESERET NEWS

SINCLAIR — The next time you see the green DINO logo at a Sinclair service station, or enter the beautiful Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, or ski the powder at Sun Valley, Idaho, or Snowbasin, Utah, you might think of Earl and Carol Holding — the remarkable family team that built an extraordinary business empire headquartered in Salt Lake City.

It is appropriate to pay tribute to the Holding family and the Sinclair Companies because Sinclair is celebrating its 100th anniversary. It was founded in 1916 in New York City and was purchased by the Holding family 40 years ago in 1976. A dinner event commemorating the anniversary was recently held in the Grand America Hotel, attended by Gov. Gary Herbert, a number of legislators, other elected and appointed officials, and many business leaders.

While accounts of business success are relatively common, the Holding story is unique, I believe, because of the outstanding lessons they have taught by example — of hard work, humility, loving care for employees, superb customer service and quiet but effective philanthropy.

Earl Holding passed away in 2013 at age 86. Carol is still going strong, and she delivered a spirited, humorous and insightful speech at the birthday celebration, telling stories of incredibly hard work as she and Earl built and expanded their businesses.

They came from humble circumstances in Salt Lake City. Their start in business was a small stake in a Wyoming truck stop. Before they were through, the firm was the 51st-largest private company in the country, owning several beautiful hotels, two renowned ski resorts, ranching enterprises and Sinclair Oil Corp. It now has 1,477 Sinclair-branded service stations in 20 states (194 in Utah), two refineries and 1,000 miles of pipeline.

The Holdings have been loyal to thousands of employees, and their employees have been loyal in return, many of them spending their entire careers with Sinclair. For Earl and Carol, their employees have been part of their extended family. They also have enabled thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs who have operated service stations, trucking companies and other affiliated businesses.

The Holdings are legendary for never asking an employee to do something they wouldn’t do, or hadn’t done, themselves. Even after achieving exceptional success, the Holdings could be seen at their various properties taking luggage to rooms, washing windows, waiting tables and washing dishes.

Gov. Herbert recalled the time he attended an event at Grand America Hotel and asked where Earl Holding was. Someone pointed him out. He was on his knees weeding flowers in the courtyard garden. For Earl and Carol, work has been their reward, their strength and their pleasure. To paraphrase Thomas Edison, they never missed an opportunity because it was dressed in overalls and looked like hard work.

They are also legendary for their hands-on business involvement and attention to detail. They have personally selected the key features of their beautiful hotels and ski resorts, and have overseen every detail of construction.

Their longtime business associate Ken Knight once said, only half joking, that Sinclair’s organizational chart was simple. “At the top of the chart you have Earl Holding, under which there are 5,000 direct reports.”

Their lives offer a pattern for success in business and life: Focus on quality. Be the best. Never sacrifice long-term results for short-term gains. Be passionate. Make your vision a reality.

Zions Bank has been associated with the Holding family for over half a century. Their loans have always been character loans, their integrity being the only formal security needed.

The Holding family is certainly deserving of the special citation recently passed by the Legislature expressing appreciation “for the extraordinary financial, employee, and civic investments the company and its owners have provided throughout the state of Utah.”


A. Scott Anderson is CEO and president of Zions Bank.

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