Dave Rex Thomas, born in July 1932, was a prominent American entrepreneur and philanthropist. He was the founder and CEO of one of the largest international fast food chains which currently has over 6,650 restaurants and more than 70,000 employees worldwide. Thomas became one of the most publicly famous businessmen in the world after appearing in more than 800 commercials for his Wendy’s chain of restaurants from 1989 to 2002 when he passed away aged 69.
A little known fact about Dave Thomas’ life is that he wasn’t born rich, successful and famous. In a matter of fact, he was adopted when he was just 6 weeks old and had a difficult childhood. His adoptive father moved a lot around the country seeking employment and his mother passed away when he was 5. Later, when he was 12, he got his first job in a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee which he subsequently lost over an argument with his boss. When his father moved again at Fort Wayne, Indiana the 15-year-old Dave Thomas got a job in the Hobby House Restaurant.
After a short 3 year service as a cook during the Korean War, Thomas returned at the Hobby House Restaurant when he got recruited by a different kind of Colonel. It was at the very same place where in 1953 he met none other than Col. Harland Sanders, the founder of KFC. Then Thomas started working alongside his mentor Col. Sanders and helped rebuild his KFC franchise. Thomas’ ideas and suggestions helped make KFC profitable once again. In 1968 Thomas decided to sell his shares of KFC for 1.5 million and open up his own chain of restaurants which would later be known as “Wendy’s”.