Paul McIlhenny, CEO of company behind Tabasco, dies

AVERY ISLAND, Louisiana (AP) - Mr Paul McIlhenny, chief executive and chairman of the board of the McIlhenny Company that makes the trademarked line of Tabasco hot pepper sauces and other products, has died. He was 68.

A company statement issued on Sunday from its Avery Island headquarters in Louisiana announced the death.

The company said Mr McIlhenny, a member of a family that has been producing the world-famous sauce for generations, joined the company in 1967 and directly oversaw production and quality of all products sold under the Tabasco brand for 13 years. It said Mr McIlhenny greatly developed the company's catalogue business of licensed merchandise, such as its popular neckties, and was a key force behind the distribution of Tabasco products to more than 165 countries and territories where they are now sold today.

"All of McIlhenny Company and the McIlhenny and Avery families are deeply saddened by this news," said Mr Tony Simmons, president of McIlhenny Company and a 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 humour."

The company said Mr McIlhenny was serving as chief executive, board chairman, as well as a company director, at the time of his death.

He was a sixth-generation member of the family to live on Avery Island and among the fourth generation to produce the Tabasco brand sauce, it added.

The company also noted that Mr McIlhenny was active in community and environmental concerns, including efforts to preserve fragile coastal wetlands in Louisiana and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast.