Former USC trustee Davre J. Davidson, founder of the multibillion-dollar Aramark automatic vending company, died of heart failure Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He was 83.
Davidson helped build Aramark into a leading worldwide service management company and served as chief executive officer for 16 years before retiring in 1977. He continued to serve as chairman.
The onetime USC business professor was also active in the Los Angeles community. He worked as a trustee of Orthopaedic Hospital and director emeritus of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. At USC, where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1970 to 1979, the Davidson Conference Center is named in recognition of the contributions of Davidson and his wife. And the Fishman-Davidson Center for the Study of the Service Sector was named partly in his honor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business.
A native of Portland, Ore., Davidson started his vending business in 1936. He and his wife, Charlotte, sold penny bags of peanuts out of his 1932 Dodge. Their first week's profits were $7.56. They later landed their first account, with Douglas Aircraft.
Davidson merged his company with a partner, William S. Fishman, in 1959. Through Davidson's leadership, their revenues increased from $37 million to $5 billon annually, with the number of employees ballooning from 2,000 to more than 150,000 worldwide.
In addition to his wife, Davidson is survived by his two children.
Services will be held today at 3 p.m. at the Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles.
The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to the Foundation for the Junior Blind at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.