Former Red Robin CEO Mike Snyder has died at age 68 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the tabloid-style news site TMZ.com reported Tuesday, citing confirmation from a county coroner.
The report says Snyder shot himself Sunday with a high-powered rifle while sitting outside his home in Yakima County, Wash. Yakima County Coroner Marshall Slight has ruled the death a suicide, TMZ said.
Snyder led the chain from 1995 to 2005 after his family become the brand’s first franchisee in 1979. He took over the brand when it was on a slide, the result of what was attributed at the time to uncontrolled expansion and a lack of menu discipline. Snyder tightened the focus of the menu to burgers, fries and drinks, and encouraged franchisees to concentrate on operations. He also instituted a program of recognizing “unbridled service,” or actions by staff that went above and beyond the expected, calling attention to them in communications to the staff. The practice continues to be followed by Red Robin today.
Snyder merged his franchise company with its franchisor in 2000, forming the current company, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, and took it public in 2002.
He resigned in 2005 after an internal investigation revealed he had chartered airplanes at the company’s expense for excursions that mixed personal time with the business. Acquaintances said at the time that Snyder was not aware he might have violated rules governing the officers of public companies.
He agreed to compensate Red Robin for any expenses that were not purely business-related, an amount estimated at $1.4 million, and served as a consultant during a transfer of authority to his successor, director Dennis Mullen. He also remained one of the company’s biggest stockholders.
"We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Snyder. During Mike's time with the Red Robin family, he made many contributions to the growth of our brand, including his role as an early franchisee and, some years later, his leadership role at the company," Red Robin said in a statement. "Many of our current Team Members and franchisees knew and worked closely with Mike during his time here and fondly recall his boundless energy and passion for Red Robin. Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike's family and friends as they mourn his passing and celebrate his life."
Snyder kept a low profile in the years after leaving the company, investing in businesses through his firm, Calliope Investment Co.
Authorities said no suicide note was left by Snyder, TMZ reported.