Kent Taylor, the co-founder and CEO of Texas Roadhouse Inc., has died from suicide, his family said, after suffering “unbearable” COVID-19-related symptoms.
Taylor’s family and the restaurant chain said in a statement to The Hill on Sunday that the business executive “took his own life this week” after “a battle with post-Covid related symptoms, including severe tinnitus.”
“Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable,” the statement read.
“But in true Kent fashion, he always found a silver lining to help others. Most recently, he committed to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer with tinnitus,” the statement continued, referring to ringing or buzzing noises in one or both ears.
The restaurant chain, which operates more than 500 dining establishments in 49 states, confirmed Taylor’s death in Facebook post.
“We will miss you, Kent. Because of you and your dream of Texas Roadhouse, we get to say we [love] our jobs every day,” the chain wrote in the post last Thursday.
Taylor, who co-founded the chain that opened in 1993, made headlines a year ago for giving up his bonus and base salary to pay his chain’s workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The donation from Taylor’s base salary amounted to just under $525,000 and his bonus was $525,000 as well, a spokesperson for the company told The Hill at the time.
“On a prorated basis, the forgone salary and bonus would be just under a $1 million donation to employees,” the spokesperson said then.
Greg Moore, the lead director at the company, told McClatchy News that the “selfless act was no surprise to anyone who knew Kent and his strong belief in servant leadership.”
“He was without a doubt, a people-first leader. His entrepreneurial spirit will live on in the company he built, the projects he supported and the lives he touched,” he added.
In the statement on Sunday, Taylor’s family and the restaurant chain said that the late business leader “famously created what would eventually become Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin.”
“Kent leaves an unmatched legacy as a people-first leader, which is why he often said that Texas Roadhouse was a people company that just happened to serve steaks,” Taylor added. “He changed the lives of hundreds of millions of employees and guests over the past 28 years. He also impacted hundreds of thousands of people through his generous and often anonymous donations.”
The company’s board of directors announced last week that President Jerry Morgan would assume the role of CEO of the company.
“While you never expect the loss of such a visionary as Kent, our succession plan, which Kent led, gives us great confidence,” Moore said in a news release announcing the move.
“He leaves behind a legendary company led by his hand-picked Leadership Team fueled by the passion of Roadies in communities around the world,” his family and the restaurant chain said.
“We are saddened by the decision Kent felt he needed to make and want to emphasize more than ever the importance of reaching out for help if you or someone you love is suffering,” they added. “As Kent would so often say, ‘keep it legendary.’”
–Updated at 12:41 p.m.