Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died by suicide on Thursday after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, the company and his family said in a statement. He was 65.
“After a battle with post-Covid-related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life this week,” the statement said.
Mr. Taylor fought the condition, but “the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable,” the statement said. It added that Mr. Taylor had recently committed to funding “a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer with tinnitus,” which causes ringing and other noises in the ear.
His body was found in a field on his property near Louisville, Ky., the Kentucky State Police told The Louisville Courier Journal. The State Police and the Oldham County coroner did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Mr. Taylor, who was also the chairman of the company’s board of directors, founded Texas Roadhouse in 1993. He sought to create an “affordable, Texas-style” restaurant but was turned down more than 80 times as he tried to find investors, according to a biography provided by the company.
Eventually, he raised $300,000 from three doctors from Elizabethtown, Ky., and sketched out the design for the first Texas Roadhouse on a cocktail napkin for the investors.
The first Texas Roadhouse opened in Clarksville, Ind., in 1993. Three of the chain’s first five restaurants failed, but it went on to open 611 locations in 49 states, and 28 international locations in 10 countries.
Until his death, Mr. Taylor had been active in Texas Roadhouse’s day-to-day operations, the company said. He oversaw decisions about the menu, selected the murals for the restaurants and personally picked songs for the jukeboxes.
Kent Taylor was born on Sept. 27, 1955. He grew up in Louisville and graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he received a track scholarship, the company said.
He is survived by his parents, Powell and Marilyn Taylor; his children, Michelle, Brittney and Max; and five grandchildren. He was married twice; both marriages ended in divorce.
Greg Moore, the lead director of the company’s board, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor gave up his compensation package during the coronavirus pandemic to support frontline workers in the company.
Jerry Morgan, the company’s president, will succeed Mr. Taylor as chief executive. Texas Roadhouse will announce its next chairman at a later date, a spokesman for the company said.
Senator Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky and the minority leader, said in a statement that Mr. Taylor “didn’t fit the mold of a big-time C.E.O.”
“Kent built a billion-dollar company with creativity, grit and a lot of bold risks,” Mr. McConnell said. “As Texas Roadhouse stretched around the globe, Kent kept his heart and his headquarters in Louisville.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You can find a list of additional resources at SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources.