Former Tyson Foods, Inc., Chairman/CEO Don Tyson has passed away at age 80 after a brief illness. The son of company founder John Tyson, he led the company from the late 1960s into the early 1990s before retiring in 1995.
Don Tyson was integrally involved in the company's first major stepping stone to becoming a food industry giant: the building and opening of its first chicken processing plant in 1958, a move that first allowed what was then known as Tyson Feed & Hatchery to become a "vertically integrated" concern. He oversaw construction of the plant and served as its first manager.
He was named president of the company in 1966 and then added the titles of chairman and CEO the following year when his father was killed in a car accident. His tenure leading Tyson Foods included a series of acquisition deals culminating with the 1989 purchase of Holly Farms, which more than doubled the size of the company and made it the country's largest poultry producer.
He successively gave up his titles as president (1983), CEO (1991) and chairman (1995) but continued to provide guidance to the leadership team, including son John, on major moves such as the 1998 acquisition of Hudson Foods and the blockbuster 2001 purchase of IBP, Inc., which made Tyson not only the world's largest poultry producer, but also its largest beef processor and the second largest pork processor.
In addition to his business successes, Don Tyson was a world renowned fisherman, a founder of the Billfish Foundation that promotes the catch and release of marlin and other billfish, as well as a longtime member and benefactor of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA), a group that tracks and certifies world records for fishing.
He also created and led the Tyson Family Foundation, which among other things provides scholarships for post secondary students from communities where Tyson Foods has operations. He has been a well known philanthropist in Arkansas and elsewhere, supporting countless causes, primarily in the fields of education, conservation and the arts.