Donald Tyson; led poultry farm to dominance
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Former
Company spokesman Gary Mickelson said Mr. Tyson died from complications from cancer, passing away at home with his family.
In 1952, Mr. Tyson joined the business his father founded, and he became its president in 1966. He built up the company by acquiring other poultry producers in the 1970s and 1980s, and Tyson Foods became the world’s largest poultry producer when it bought Holly Farms in 1989.
“He was a true visionary who led Tyson Foods from a small regional chicken company to a multibillion dollar food-processing enterprise,’’ said John R. Tyson, his son who is the company chairman. “He will be missed by everyone who knew him.’’
Mr. Tyson was recognized for his “no bad days’’ outlook and “was known by all to work hard, but also to play hard,’’ the company said in its statement.
While the Springdale-based company went public in 1963, in practice it remained a family business with Tyson family members owning controlling shares.
Mr. Tyson, who retired as senior chairman in 2001, was fined $700,000 by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2005, and Tyson Foods paid $1.5 million to settle an investigation into lavish spending of company money between 1997 and 2001.
The SEC found that he used $3 million in company funds to pay for vacation properties in England and Mexico, and items that ranged from jewelry and artwork to a horse and clothing, all improperly documented in company regulatory filings.
Mr. Tyson was also known for his philanthropy. He founded the Tyson Family Foundation, which offers college scholarships to students who live in areas where Tyson has facilities. He also had been a supporter of conservation and the arts. Mr. Tyson had a well-known love of music, and he was easy to spot at local performances by musicians such as Willie Nelson, B.B. King, and Marty Stuart.
Mr. Tyson’s father, John W. Tyson, founded the company in the early 1930s.
The business grew to include hatcheries, feed mills, and, in 1958, processing plants.
The company became the leading meat company with its purchase of IBP Inc. in 2001.
Until his death, Mr. Tyson was the managing general partner of the Tyson Limited Partnership, which owns 70 million shares of the company’s Class B common stock, and 3 million shares of its Class A common stock. The partnership, consisting of Tyson family members and former executives, will retain control of the company.