Mr. Taylor died by suicide after suffering from post-Covid-19 symptoms, including severe tinnitus, the company said.Kent Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, died on Thursday. He was turned down more than 80 times as he initially tried to find investors. Credit... Ron Bath/Texas Roadhouse
Published March 21, 2021 Updated March 23, 2021
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 official cause of death is pending autopsy results, the Oldham County coroner, David Pendleton, said on Monday. The State Police, which did not respond to a request for comment, are investigating the matter, Mr. Pendleton said.
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.
Wayne Kent Taylor was born on Sept. 27, 1955, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., where his father, Powell Taylor, was a lieutenant in the Army. He was raised in Louisville, where his father worked for General Electric and his mother, Marilyn (Bergmann) Taylor, was a buyer for a local boutique.
Mr. Taylor graduated from the University of North Carolina, where he received a track scholarship.
In addition to his parents, Mr. Taylor is survived by 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, Mr. Doster 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.”