Reuben and Lee Anderson.

Lee Anderson: Son of Reuben

Lee Anderson no doubt picked up some of his business acumen from his father, Reuben. Reuben, who lost both of his parents by the age of 14 and stopped his education at eighth grade, was a self-made businessman with a knack for making a deal. The entrepreneur started a small plumbing company in 1926 in St. Paul. The examples he set paved the way for his only child.

Reuben Anderson

On the way to work from their modest home in Minneapolis, Reuben would pass a building under renovation. One day, he noticed construction on the Breck school building had stopped. He offered to do the plumbing in exchange for his son to attend the preparatory school tuition free.

At that time, Breck was an all-boys school with a military focus. That curriculum led Lee, at the urging of his father, to continue his education at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where the 6-foot-7-inch athlete played football and basketball.

“My time (at West Point) formed the basis for everything I believe in today about duty, honor and country,” Lee told the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, which honored him in 2014.

He graduated from West Point in 1961 with a degree in civil engineering and was assigned to Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix. There, he was responsible for materials procurement and construction services. The plumber’s son was promoted to first lieutenant, with an overseas assignment.

His military career was cut short in 1963 when his father had a heart attack. That health scare prompted Reuben to teach his son the family business. Although Lee obtained a master plumber’s license, his father instead asked him to join Asbestos Products, Inc., a small insulation installation firm in which the elder Anderson had an ownership stake.

Lee started managing the sales team at the then 13-employee company. Taking the helm, Lee led the business through strategic acquisition of similar companies, transforming it into the global, multibillion-dollar enterprise, APi Group. APi comprises dozens of businesses that provide specialty construction and building safety services around the world. After 55 years, Lee sold APi Group in 2019 for $2.9 billion, and the company is now publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The only son of Reuben the plumber, hailing from humble beginnings, honors his father’s legacy and his own commitment to faith by paying it forward through philanthropic gifts that enhance educational opportunities for others. After all, without Reuben’s insight to gift his talents to Breck, Lee might have taken a different path.