(Reuters) - Fred DeLuca, the CEO and co-founder of Subway who helped build his sandwich shops into the world’s largest restaurant chain, has died at age 67 after a long battle with leukemia, the company said on Tuesday.
DeLuca died on Monday, the Connecticut-based company said. DeLuca helped found the first Subway restaurant in 1965 at age 17 in Bridgeport, Connecticut, with a $1,000 loan.
“It’s with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of our co-founder Fred DeLuca,” the company said in a statement. “We thank him for his immeasurable contribution.”
The statement did not say where he died.
Forbes listed his wealth at $3.5 billion.
The privately-held fast-food company boasts more than 44,000 restaurants in 110 countries. Subway promotes its menu of sandwiches as “quick, nutritious meals” in contrast with other fast-food chains that rely heavily on burgers, fries, fried chicken and pizza.
Over the years, Subway has come under scrutiny for issues including the ingredients used in its sandwiches and franchise contracts.
The company found itself in the middle of a controversy this summer when its long-time pitchman, Jared Fogle, agreed in August to plead guilty to charges of child pornography and traveling for illicit paid sex with minors. The company severed ties with him.
Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Will Dunham