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In-N-Out Executive's Death Ruled Accidental

Restaurants: Coroner's report says CEO H. Guy Snyder overdosed on a prescription painkiller.

January 26, 2000|GREG HERNANDEZ | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The recent death of In-N-Out Burger's chairman and chief executive, H. Guy Snyder, was caused by an accidental overdose of a prescription painkiller, according to an autopsy report from the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.

Snyder, who headed the Irvine-based burger chain for six years, died last month at the age of 48. He was the second brother to run In-N-Out Burger to die unexpectedly.

According to the report, Snyder's death was caused by an overdose of Hydrocodone, which is commonly sold as the prescription drug Vicodin. The coroner's report also revealed that the executive had suffered from a series of health problems in his last year and had a history of drug abuse.

Snyder had overdosed three times in 1999 and had a heart attack three years earlier that was related to drug use, according to information given to investigators by Lynda Snyder, the executive's former wife.

She said her former husband had a history of drug abuse and that his drugs of choice were opiates. She said Snyder had also used methadone, according to the report. The drug is used to treat heroin and morphine addiction.

Snyder also suffered from a bout with pneumonia in May and had an enlarged heart, the report said.

The company, which runs a chain of 140 restaurants, declined to discuss the autopsy results Tuesday, issuing a brief statement saying that "the death of Guy is a family matter."

Snyder had complained to a cousin that he was not feeling well and called 911 himself. He was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital at 1:08 a.m. Dec. 4 and declared dead shortly thereafter.

He had been living in his motor home parked outside the Lancaster home of a nephew, according to the coroner.

Lynda Snyder could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The company described Snyder as an active executive who focused on the chain's employees, particularly younger workers in its stores.

"Guy was a tremendous individual," the company said in Tuesday's press release.

But he was not involved in the chain until his brother, Richard, who was chief executive, died in 1993 when a chartered corporate jet crashed near the Santa Ana Auto Mall. Two other In-N-Out executives and the plane's two crew members also were killed.

Family matriarch Esther Snyder, who founded the company in 1948 with her husband, Harry, is currently heading the company's management team and remains its president.

After her husband died in 1976, son Richard took over the company at the age of 24. At that time, the chain had only 18 outlets. He had built the company to 93 locations by the time of his death.

When Richard Snyder died, Esther Snyder took over the company's day-to-day operations until Guy Snyder was ready to assume the duties.

The company continued to grow when Guy Snyder was chief executive, expanding to Northern California and Las Vegas.

The company also has a strong operations manager, Carl Van Fleet, and numerous regional, division and store managers with years of experience, which should enable the chain to continue to operate smoothly, consultants say.

In-N-Out, which has remained private since its inception, does not make its financial results public but was estimated to have $146.1 million in sales in 1998, a 7% increase from the previous year, according to Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

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