Robert Brooks, the chairman of Hooters of America, Inc. who made his fortune selling chicken wings served by scantily clad waitresses, was found dead at his home Sunday, officials said. He was 69.
It was unclear how Brooks died, but the Horry County coroner’s office told The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News that an autopsy would be performed Monday.
Several calls to the coroner’s office by The Associated Press were unanswered.
Chris Hardwick, owner of Hardwick Funeral Home of Loris, told the AP he was handling Brooks’ funeral arrangements.
Since opening its first store in Clearwater, Florida, in 1983, the chain has expanded across the United States and into more than a dozen foreign countries ranging from Taiwan to Venezuela. Hooters has about 61 million annual visitors to its some 425 restaurants.
Brooks, born on a tobacco farm outside Loris near Myrtle Beach, founded Eastern Foods Inc., which makes dressings and sauces, in 1966.
With a group of Atlanta investors, Brooks bought expansion and franchise rights for the Hooters chain in 1984. He eventually bought majority control and became chairman.
Brooks was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce in 1996, according to the company’s Web site.
Area business leaders remembered Brooks as a sharp businessman with a down-home flair, who never forgot where he came from.
“Whenever I saw him, the first question and usually the last question from him was, ’What can I do to help ya?”’ said Brad Dean, president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
He also shared his wealth, giving $2 million to Coastal Carolina University for its first football stadium, which was named Brooks Stadium in 2003.