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Arizona business legend Karl Eller dies in Phoenix at age 90

(University of Arizona Photo)

PHOENIX – Arizona businessman Karl Eller, who put the Circle K convenience chain on the map, and helped bring professional sports to Phoenix, died Sunday.

Eller passed away at his home in Phoenix. The University of Arizona alumnus was 90.

His early investment in the Phoenix Suns pushed the fledgling NBA franchise into existence in the late 1960s, and later he did the same for the NFL Arizona Cardinals in the late 1980s.

Born June 28, 1928 in Chicago, Illinois, Eller and his family moved to Tucson when he was young.

He played football for the hometown university and graduated in 1952 with a business degree.

Eller’s career began in earnest in the early 1960s, when he bought a billboard company in Phoenix for $5 million. His achievements grew to include a communications group that included seven major market TV stations, 14 radio stations (including KTAR) and two daily newspapers.

He ran movie studio Columbia Pictures and guided the merger with Coca-Cola before becoming CEO of Circle K in 1983.

According to the biography at UA’s Eller College of Management, Eller was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2004.

He had been inducted into the Arizona Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame the previous year.

Eller donated one of the founding gifts to create the Chris and Carol McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at his alma mater, which eventually named the business school after him.

Gov. Doug Ducey paid tribute to Eller in a tweet Monday morning.

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