Tabasco company CEO Paul McIlhenny dies at age 68

Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:30am EST

Feb 24 (Reuters) - Paul McIlhenny, the chairman and chief executive of the Louisiana company that makes Tabasco brand pepper sauce, has died at age 68, the McIlhenny Co said on Sunday.

McIlhenny died on Saturday, the family-owned company said in a news release that described him as "a true bon vivant" whose passions included hunting, fishing, wine-tasting and game cooking.

He was a sixth-generation member of the McIlhenny family to live on Avery Island in the southern Louisiana bayou, and a fourth-generation member to produce pepper sauces sold worldwide under the Tabasco brand.

The McIlhenny company was founded in 1868 on Avery Island. It supplies hot sauce to the U.S. presidential plane Air Force One and to Britain's royal family, the Times-Picayune newspaper said on its website.

Paul McIlhenny joined the company in 1967 and directly oversaw the production of its sauces for 13 years, expanding both its line of spicy sauces and the array of aprons, neckties and other merchandise bearing the familiar red-and-green Tabasco logo.

He spent much of his time in New Orleans and in 2006 he reigned as Rex, the first King of Carnival during Mardi Gras celebrations after the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"All of McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news," said Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Co and fifth-generation McIlhenny family member. "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." (Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Eric Walsh)