Gordon Teter, chairman, president and chief executive of Wendy’s International Inc., died December 18, 1999. The fast-food chain’s founder and spokesman Dave Thomas is returning to supervise the company.

Thomas, who founded Wendy’s in Columbus in 1969, will lead a five-person management council for the foreseeable future and actively supervise the company’s management, the company said Sunday in a statement.

The death of Teter, 56, on Saturday night was the second of a high-ranking Wendy’s official in 3 1/2 years. Chairman James Near died in 1996 of a heart attack at age 58.

An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of Teter’s death. But the company, based in the Columbus suburb of Dublin, said in a statement Sunday it apparently was of natural causes.

Thomas, who will have the title senior chairman, will supervise the management of the Company. Reporting to Thomas will be chief financial officer Frederick R. Reed, chief operating officer Jack Schuessler and Paul House, president and chief operating officer of Tim Hortons, the chain of doughnut and coffee shops that Wendy’s acquired in 1995.

Teter came to Wendy’s in September 1987 with more than 20 years of experience in the franchised restaurant industry. He became president and chief operating officer in 1991 and was promoted to chief executive in 1995, the year he helped the company buy the Canadian-based Tim Hortons chain. He became chairman in 1997.

“Gordon was a great friend and a tremendous leader,” Thomas said in the statement. “He had a great business mind and a passion for people. He was one of the smartest men I knew, and he taught us all how to be better business people.” Teter is survived by his daughter, Molly of Powell; former wife, Carol of Columbus; his mother, Bonnie, and a brother, Jim, both of Indianapolis.

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