Oren Benton, 72, Bought Soviet Uranium

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Oren Benton, a Denver entrepreneur who made a fortune pioneering the purchase of uranium from the Soviet Union before a spectacular bankruptcy when the uranium market collapsed, died Friday at 72 of colon cancer.

Benton used the money he made selling uranium to American nuclear power plants in the 1980s to invest in banks, a real estate agency, a computer chip manufacturer and gold mines. The Wall Street Journal once estimated his wealth at between $150 million and $200 million.

In 1991, he bought a share of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. He had to sell his share of the team when he declared bankruptcy in 1995.

A native of Oto, Iowa, Benton served in the army before earning a degree in economics and accounting from the University of New Mexico. He married his childhood sweetheart, Beverly.

Benton became involved with Rockies when then-Governor Roy Romer called and said Denver might not get the franchise without additional investment money. He committed $20 million, saying, “I couldn’t stand the fact that Denver wasn’t going to get the franchise.”

During the years he was trading with Russia he became fond of the country and shipped 100 pregnant cows there from his Diamond Six D ranch near Kremmling, Co., as an “educational gift.”

In addition to his bankruptcy, he got into trouble with the Federal Reserve because his bank allegedly lent too much money to Benton himself and people close to him. He also was involved in several lawsuits.

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