Mark V. Shoen, the largest shareholder of U-Haul International parent company AMERCO, has amassed much of his fortune through sole ownership of 359 U-Haul self-storage facilities and majority ownership in 78 others, according to a report by “Bloomberg Businessweek.” His ascension has not been without controversy and family tragedy, including the ousting and later suicide of his father Leonard, who founded U-Haul, and a 10-year lawsuit targeting the AMERCO financing behind Shoen’s acquisitions, Bloomberg reported.
Mark Shoen began acquiring self-storage facilities from AMERCO in 1993 when he was a director for the company. Today, he owns 3.8 million AMERCO shares valued at $845 million and controls 437 storage properties mostly purchased from AMERCO with $600 million in company-backed loans, Bloomberg reported, citing a 2011 legal opinion of the Supreme Court of Nevada. Shoen’s net worth is $3.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Shoen’s brother Paul filed a lawsuit in 2002 arguing AMERCO had harmed shareholders “by selling the self-storage assets for acquisition cost plus capitalized expenses,” according to Bloomberg’s citing of the 2011 court opinion. When Mark Shoen began buying storage properties in 1993, AMERCO reportedly treated the assets as off-balance sheet entities, but storage sales rose more than 10 percent that year and outperformed the company’s truck-and-trailer rental division, according to Bloomberg.
Although AMERCO officials said in 1994 the company didn’t expect to loan Shoen more than $50 million, he wound up buying hundreds of storage properties from the company, borrowing more than $600 million from AMERCO to finance the acquisitions. The lawsuit was ultimately dropped in 2012, with all related litigation closed by the court, Bloomberg reported.
Shoen’s self-storage properties are held by 32 entities that comprise SAC Holdings, as well as by three holding entities, Galaxy Storage Two LP, Mercury Partners and PM Partners LP, according to Bloomberg, citing AMERCO disclosures and Nevada state records.
AMERCO manages 24 million square feet of the billionaire’s storage properties, most of which operate under the U-Haul brand name. Under the management agreement, Shoen pays AMERCO about $1 a year per square foot, according to the company’s 2013 annual report.
In the late 1980s, Shoen reportedly teamed with brothers James and Joe to gain control of the company in a proxy battle and forced their father to retire, according to Bloomberg. Leonard Shoen apparently suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1999 by driving his car into a wooden utility pole, according to findings of the Clark County, Nev., coroner’s office.
Today, the three Shoen brothers vote their combined 47 percent shareholder stake as a block, according to Bloomberg. The full report includes details of the colorful history of AMERCO and U-Haul, including other legal wrangling and dissension among Shoen family members.
AMERCO is the parent company of U-Haul International, Oxford Life Insurance Co., Repwest Insurance Co. and Amerco Real Estate Co. Established in 1945, U-Haul has 36 million square feet of storage space at more than 1,000 owned and managed facilities throughout North America.