Ian Cumming, a corporate titan who was an influential figure in Utah’s ski industry through his ownership of Park City and Snowbird resorts and a major donor to the Utah Democratic Party, died Friday. He was 77.

“Ian was the capitalist we would hope for, in that he had a brilliant mind for business, but at the same time time, he had a conscience for the least-advantaged in our culture,” said longtime friend Pat Shea, a Salt Lake City attorney and prominent Utah Democrat. “He did many things to alleviate their pain, suffering and poverty.”

The state’s highest-profile Democratic office holder, Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams, said, “Ian came from a humble background, a perspective that guided his passion to help others.”

He praised Cumming’s contributions to Utah’s Olympic legacy, noting that the businessman was on the state committee that helped develop several venues critical to Salt Lake City’s successful bid for the 2002 Winter Games.

“He set a strong foundation for their continued success,” McAdams said. “His impact on Utah will be wide and long lasting.”

Trisha Worthington, executive vice president and chief development officer of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation, was saddened to hear of Cumming’s death at his home in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Cumming and his wife, Annette, were longtime supporters of the ski team and its foundation.

“He was a good friend and a great business mentor for this organization,” Worthington said. “He wasn’t shy about sharing his opinion, which was good and healthy and helped us in many ways.”

Ski Utah President Nathan Rafferty had a similar observation.

“The Cumming family has Utah skiing in their blood,” he said. “Our thriving industry wouldn’t be where it is today without Ian’s vision and leadership. Our thoughts are with the Cumming family as they mourn the loss of a true Utah ski industry icon.”

A Salt Lake City native, Cumming avoided notoriety and was known for not talking to the news media while he amassed great wealth, largely through his leadership of investment firm Leucadia National Corp.

Cumming and a graduate school classmate bought a bankrupt holding company called Talcott National in 1978 and renamed it Leucadia, establishing offices in New York City and Salt Lake City. By the time Cumming retired from Leucadia in 2013, the conglomerate was valued at $6.8 billion.

“Mr. Cumming accomplished this remarkable feat by investing in dozens of companies in everything from mining, manufacturing and vineyards to real estate, casinos and even debt collecting,” Crain’s business newspaper said as it reported on the $27.5 million compensation package he received upon departing. That was twice as much as CEO Lloyd Blankfein got when he left Goldman Sachs.

Crain’s writer Aaron Elstein noted his requests for an interview were ignored, and that one of the few quotes he could find from Cumming was in a 2002 Salt Lake Tribune article about Cumming telling business school graduates at a dinner party that he had been described as a “coyote.”

But Cumming went on to say he didn’t find the comparison unflattering. After all, he said, “coyotes eat carrion.”

That fit the business model followed by Leucadia, known for buying struggling companies, nursing them back to health and selling them. One example cited by Crain’s: Leucadia bought insurer Colonial Penn in 1991 for $150 million, then sold it six years later for $1.4 billion.

A zoology graduate from the University of Kansas in 1962, he received his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1970.

Over the years, his business connections included holding management positions at WitTel Communications Group, Ponderosa Lumber, Amundi Asset Management and the Crimson Wine Group.

He served on the boards of, among others, SkyWest Airlines, CarMike Cinemas Inc., AmeriCredit Corp., Jefferies Group Inc., General Motors Financial Co. and MK Resources, whose president and CEO was Frank Joklik, the one-time Kennecott boss and Salt Lake City Olympic leader.

His highest profile role came as a board member of Park City-based Powdr, a ski company that once owned Park City Mountain Resort. Operated by his sons, John and David, Powdr sold the resort to Vail Resorts after a key lease agreement went unsigned.

Powdr still owns eight ski areas in Colorado, California, Oregon, Vermont and Nevada, along with Gorgoza tubing park near Jeremy Ranch in Utah and Woodward adventure lifestyle facilities in five locations.

In 2014, Cumming also bought the majority interest in Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort from co-founder Dick Bass for an undisclosed amount.

“I look forward to working with the Bass family and the team at Snowbird in providing world-class experiences on and off the mountain,” said a news release from Cumming, who has a home across the Little Cottonwood Canyon road from the resort, one noted for the enclosed elevator shaft leading from the road to second-floor living quarters. “We are very happy to be involved at a place that has so many fond memories for our family.”

Snowbird officials declined comment Friday at the request of the Cumming family.