Texas Roadhouse Inc. founder Kent Taylor died by suicide last week after battling symptoms following a case of COVID-19, including tinnitus, the company and his family said in a joint statement. He was 65.
“After a battle with post-Covid related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life,” according to the statement. “Kent battled and fought hard like the former track champion that he was, but the suffering that greatly intensified in recent days became unbearable.”
Taylor founded the restaurant chain in 1993 and most recently was its chief executive officer and chairman. During the pandemic, he donated his entire compensation to support the company’s front-line workers, and recently committed to fund a clinical study to help members of the military who also suffer from tinnitus, according to the statement.
Tinnitus is a ringing or noise in the ears even when there’s no external sound. The American Tinnitus Association said the chronic condition is exacerbated by increased stress and anxiety, which are at unprecedented levels due to the pandemic.
The Louisville, Kentucky, based company named its president, Jerry Morgan, as the new CEO on Friday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senior U.S. senator from Kentucky, was among several public figures who paid tribute to Taylor, saying he’d built the company “with creativity, grit and a lot of bold risks.”
”From the cooks to the executives, Kent deeply cared about his team,” McConnell said. ”When the pandemic threw everything into uncertainty last year, there was no question what Kent would do.”
Texas Roadhouse shares have tripled since its March low last year, outperforming the gain in the S&P 500 Index.