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Tabasco CEO Paul McIlhenny dies

Posted at 6:35 PM, Feb 24, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-24 18:35:40-05

By CNN Staff

(CNN) — Paul McIlhenny, the chairman and chief executive of the company that makes Tabasco sauce, has died. He was 68.

McIlhenny Company, based in Avery Island, Louisiana, said he died Saturday. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

“All of McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news,” Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Company, said in a statement Sunday. “We will clearly miss Paul’s devoted leadership but will more sorely feel the loss of his acumen, his charm and his irrepressible sense of humor.”

McIlhenny was part of the sixth generation of his family to live on Avery Island and among the fourth generation to make Tabasco, the iconic hot pepper sauce.

He joined the 145-year-old company in 1967 and is credited with overseeing years of record growth in sales and earnings. He is also credited with introducing new flavors and products, and expanding where Tabasco brand products are sold.

McIlhenny attended the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

In 2006, he was Rex, the first King of Carnival after Hurricane Katrina.

Around that time, McIlhenny reportedly joked that if the subject of hot sauce came up, he’d say: “That’s one form of global warming I’m totally in favor of.”

“We’re defending the world against bland food,” he said, according to The Times-Picayune newspaper.

McIlhenny loved wing shooting, red fishing, wine tasting and game cooking.

He is survived by his wife, two daughters and four grandchildren.