Pizza Hut co-founder Frank Carney dead at 82

Pizza Hut co-founder Frank Carney dies at age 82

WICHITA, Kan. — Frank Carney, who co-founded Pizza Hut with his brother in Wichita, Kansas died Wednesday from pneumonia, his wife confirmed. He was 82.

Carney died at 4:30 a.m. at an assisted living center in Wichita, his wife, Janie Carney, told The Wichita Eagle. Frank Carney had recently recovered from COVID-19 but had Alzheimer’s disease for more than a decade, the newspaper reported.

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Frank Carney was a 19-year-old student at Wichita State University when he and his brother Dan Carney, 26, borrowed $600 from their mother to start a pizza business in 1958 near the family’s Carney Market, the Eagle reported.

B&B’s was a beer and pizza place, and according to the Kansas Business Hall of Fame, the brothers franchised the first Pizza Hut in Topeka in 1960.

The business expanded until it became the world’s largest pizza chain, KSN reported.

The Carneys sold it in 1977 to PepsiCo for an estimated $310 million, the television station reported.

When PepsiCo decided to move the Pizza Hut headquarters from Wichita to Dallas in the 1990s, Frank Carney decided to take the Wichita Papa John’s market and compete against his friends and former business associates, the Eagle reported.

“Sorry guys: I found a better pizza,” he said in a national commercial, according to the Eagle.

“I called Papa John’s and said, ‘I want Wichita. Let’s do it,’” he told the newspaper.

Carney made his decision after visiting a Papa John’s in Memphis, Tennessee, and sampling its product, The Wall Street Journal reported in 1997.

“I thought, ‘Here comes the train again,’” Carney told the newspaper.

The Carney brothers were inducted into the Kansas Business Hall of Fame in 2003.

“The impact of Frank Carney’s entrepreneurship ... can be felt by anyone with an appreciation for the brand’s iconic red roofs and delicious pizzas,” a Pizza Hut spokesperson said in a statement. “His legacy will live on in big cities and small towns across the country and around the world, in restaurants that for decades have brought people together and serve as a testament to his vision for the brand and his success as a business leader.”

Carney was involved in other food companies, such as Western Sizzlin. He also dabbled in real estate, oil and gas, automotive, rental and recreational businesses before deciding to narrow his focus again.

“I woke up one day in 1988 with about 28 different things I was doing,” Carney told the Eagle in 1997. “That’s not my comfort level. That’s not where I do my best work.”