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Kent Taylor, the chief executive officer and founder of the popular restaurant chain Texas Roadhouse, passed away on Thursday, March 18 per family and friends. He was 65.

Taylor took his own life after suffering from a variety of COVID-19 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. 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,” the statement said.

Tinnitus is a condition involving ringing or other noises in one or both ears. Scientists believe COVID-19 can aggravate tinnitus for those who suffer from small to mild cases of it.

Taylor founded the first Texas Roadhouse in 1993 in Indiana, and writing it down on a cocktail napkin. Over the next 28 years, the restaurant chain grew to operate 610 restaurants in 49 states in 10 other countries. Although the namesake says Texas, it is headquartered in Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Taylor gave up his entire compensation package to help support frontline workers. The donation of his yearly salary and bonus amounted to over $800,000 and he purchased PPE such as latex gloves, eyewear and masks for the workers in all of his restaurants.

“It’s how I was raised. I did what I felt was right,” Taylor told PEOPLE. “This is that kind of time where you have to persist and think differently and take care of those that are with you and lift everyone’s spirits and march forward.”

His generosity was well known before the pandemic hit. He donated $5 million to Andy’s Outreach, an emergency fund he set up for employees to help cover rent and mortgage payments, funeral expenses and utility bills.

“Kent’s kind and generous spirit was his constant driving force whether it was quietly helping a friend or building one of America’s great companies in @texasroadhouse,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said on Twitter. “He was a maverick entrepreneur who embodied the values of never giving up and putting others first.”


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