Kent Taylor, the founder and CEO of the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, has died by suicide, his family said. He was 65.
Taylor had dealt with symptoms related to COVID-19, including tinnitus, a condition in which an afflicted person hears ringing or buzzing, the family said.
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"After a battle with post-COVID related symptoms, including severe tinnitus, Kent Taylor took his own life," his family said in a 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," the statement added.
Taylor started Texas Roadhouse in 1993. There are now more than 600 restaurants in 49 states and nearly a dozen countries. The chain is based out of Taylor’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
“I will remember Kent as legendary,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. “Legendary for his positive outlook on life. He never gave up and he always had an idea.”
Taylor gave up his salary and bonus last year after the pandemic struck, enabling workers in his restaurant to remain employed. He also raised money for the Special Olympics and to build homes for veterans. He also committed to funding a study to help those who served in the military cope with tinnitus.
While there is no data indicating the coronavirus can affect tinnitus, there is the possibility the condition can be exacerbated by the virus.
“Although we don't have a direct connection between COVID and tinnitus, we know that people with pre-existing conditions or conditions that might be caused by COVID, if they already have tinnitus, it can make that tinnitus worse,” NBC's senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres said.
Fischer said Taylor was dealing with problems, but people may have been unaware they were as serious as they were.
“Kent was struggling. People around him knew he was having challenges, but not to this extent, so, you know, if we can all just ask ourselves and ask other people: If you need help, ask for help,” he said.
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.