Man Who Built the Tootsie Roll Empire Dies at 95

© Kristoffer Tripplaar / Alamy

Quick: How much do you think the Tootsie Roll company is worth? Yeah, those little chewy chocolate candies. If you said anything below $2 billion, you’re underestimating how much money is in the Tootsie Roll bank—and not the one you won at the school carnival.

Until his passing on Tuesday at the age of 95, the man behind the candy behemoth was chairman and CEO Melvin Gordon, who ran the company for a remarkable 53 years, working a full schedule as recently as last month, according to Yahoo Finance. He was the oldest CEO running a company traded on a major American stock exchange.

Founded in 1896 on the popularity of the product the company is named after, Tootsie Roll Industries (as it is officially called) now has lots of well-known brands under its belt, including familiar faces like Blow Pops, Junior Mints and the much maligned Charleston Chew—all of which were acquired under Gordon’s leadership.

Gordon’s lengthy tenure may have something to do with the consistency of Tootsie Rolls themselves over the years. Though he also liked to brag about the candy’s indestructible nature. "Nothing can happen to a Tootsie Roll. We have some that were made in 1938 that we still eat," Gordon reportedly told the AP in 1996.

Replacing Gordon will be Tootsie President and Chief Operating Officer Ellen Gordon—his wife of 65 years and a relative spring chicken at the age of 82.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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