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Wendy’s Founder Dave Thomas Dies

January 8, 2002

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Dave Thomas, the portly pitchman whose homespun ads built Wendy’s Old-Fashioned Hamburgers into one of the world’s most successful fast-food franchises, has died. He was 69.

Thomas died around midnight at his home in Florida, the company said Tuesday.

The cause of death was not given. Thomas had been undergoing dialysis for a kidney problem since early 2001, and had quadruple heart bypass surgery in December 1996.

Company officials were meeting at Wendy’s headquarters in the Columbus suburb of Dublin and planned an announcement later Tuesday morning.

The founder and senior chairman of Wendy’s International became a household name when he began pitching his burgers and fries in television commercials in 1989. The smiling Thomas, always wearing a white short-sleeved shirt and red tie, touted the virtues of fast-food in humorous ads, sometimes featuring stars such as bluesman B.B. King and soap opera queen Susan Lucci.

``As long as it works, I’ll continue to do the commercials,″ Thomas said in a 1991 interview. ``When it’s not working any longer, then I’m history.″

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