J. Mahlon Buck, 85, co-owner of the Phillies

Posted: March 18, 2011

J. Mahlon Buck Jr., 85, who helped build pharmaceutical businesses and who was one of the owners of the Phillies, died of heart disease Wednesday, March 16, at home in Bryn Mawr.

In 1981, Mr. Buck and his two brothers were among the limited partners who purchased the Phillies from the Carpenter family for $30.2 million. According to published reports, the Buck's share at the time was about 30 percent.

"The two things that appealed to them were that they loved the sport and they followed it as kids. They saw the Phillies as a Philadelphia institution," the team's president, David Montgomery, told The Inquirer last year.

The Phillies were an integral part of Mr. Buck's life, his daughter, Caroline Rogers, said. "Family and friends would join him in the rooting section from the beginning of spring training until the 'final pitch.'" Rogers said. He had been scheduled to travel to Clearwater this week, she said.

After learning of Mr. Buck's death, Montgomery said in a statement, "Jim provided direction and consistent support for many of us in this organization. His wise counsel and warm friendship will be sorely missed."

In 1948, Mr. Buck began his business career in wholesale drug distribution with Smith Kline & French. The company, now GlaxoSmithKline, was founded by his ancestors in 1830.

Mr. Buck and his brothers, Alexander and William, purchased the wholesale division of Smith Kline in 1965 and renamed it the Drug House Inc.

He was chairman of the Drug House and, after it was sold to Alco Standard in 1977, he became chairman of Alco Health Services Division. For the next decade, he helped the firm purchase wholesale drug firms throughout the country.

Alco Health eventually went public as AmeriSource Health Corp. in 1995 and in 2001 merged to become AmerisourceBergen, one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical services providers.

In the late 1970s, Mr. Buck and his brothers founded TDH Capital Corp, a venture capital holding company in Radnor. The company investing founding capital in a number of firms including ESPN, Airgas, Staples and Intelligent Electronics. He remained active in the company.

Mr. Buck graduated from Haverford School and attended Princeton University before enlisting in the Army during World War II.

He served in the 92nd Division Field Artillery in Europe and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

After his discharge, he earned a bachelor's degree from Princeton. He sang with the Princeton a cappella group, the Nassoons, and performed in musical theater productions with Princeton's Triangle Club.

A patron of Haverford and Princeton, he also served on the board of Church Farm School for more than 40 years. He was an emeritus trustee of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Bryn Mawr Hospital and was a founding trustee of the Main Line Health System. He was also on the board of Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

Since 1953, Mr. Buck had been married to Elia Durr Buck. They met at a wholesale-drug convention, where she was working for her father who also was in the pharmaceutical business.

In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Buck is survived by a son, James III; six grandchildren; and brother William. His brother Alexander died in October. A daughter Anne died in 1975.

A memorial service will be at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 19, at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, Bryn Mawr.

Donations may be made to the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, 260 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, 19102.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.

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