Donald J. Tyson, former Tyson Foods chief executive who led the poultry company to dominance in the industry, died Thursday at age 80.
Tyson died from complications from cancer, and passed away at home with his family, according to company spokesman Gary Mickelson.
Through most of the 1950s Don worked with his father to grow the family business, then known as Tyson Feed and Hatchery, supplying feed and baby chicks to local poultry producers in Northwest Arkansas. In 1958 the company became “vertically integrated” by building its first chicken processing plant in Springdale, with Don overseeing the construction and then becoming its first plant manager.
The company soon began to grow by acquiring other area poultry operations, and then went public with its initial public offering of stock in 1963 under the name Tyson’s Foods, Inc. This was the company name until 1972 when it was changed to Tyson Foods, Inc. The company continued to grow through the 1970s and 1980s with Don leading a series of acquisitions including Val-Mac, Lane Poultry and the 1989 purchase of Holly Farms, which more than doubled the size of the company and made it the largest poultry producer in the US.
“He was a true visionary who led Tyson Foods from a small regional chicken company to a multibillion dollar food-processing enterprise,” John R. Tyson, his son who is now chairman of the company, said in a statement.