Former Bob Evans CEO Steven Davis dead at 64

Taijuan Moorman
The Columbus Dispatch
Steve Davis, the former CEO of Bob Evans, in a 2015 photo.

Former Bob Evans CEO and chairman Steven Davis passed away at the age of 64 on Sunday after suffering a massive cardiac arrest.

Davis led the Columbus-based restaurant company from 2006 to 2015.

Under his tenure, Bob Evans invested heavily in remodeled restaurants and expanded the company's prepared-foods division. His tenure also included the controversial move of the company's headquarters from the South Side to New Albany in 2011 and a shareholder fight that led to Davis' resignation.

Davis was the second non-Evans family member and the first African American to run the company. He was the final CEO before the split of Bob Evans Farms and restaurants in 2017. His previous tenures include leading the Long John Silver's and A&W division of Yum Brands Inc. and executive roles at Kraft Foods and Pizza Hut.

Davis remained active in a variety of community and corporate organizations after his departure from Bob Evans. 

He served on the boards of directors of American Eagle Outfitters since 2020, PPG since 2019, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation since 2017, Albertsons since 2015 and Marathon Petroleum since 2013.

Davis previously served on the boards of directors of Legacy Acquisition, CenturyLink, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Sonic, The Ohio State University's Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute, JobsOhio and as chair of Mid-Ohio Food Bank's Operation Feed.

In 2014, Davis received the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2012, he received The Ohio State University William E. Nelson Community Warrior Award for Business.

Business leaders who worked with Davis praised his leadership, decency and commitment to social issues. 

"I am deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Steven Davis. His leadership, integrity and kindness were unmatched," said American Eagle Outfitters CEO and Chairman Jay Schottenstein in a statement.

"It was truly an honor to know and work alongside Steve. His loss leaves a void for many, and that void will be especially felt within our AEO family. We extend our heartfelt sympathies and prayers to Steve's wife Lynnda, daughters, grandchildren and all who loved him."

John Surma, chairman of the board of Marathon Petroleum, where Davis served as a board member for nearly a decade, echoed Schottenstein's comments. 

"We are so saddened by Steve's passing and the loss of such a vibrant voice on our board," Surma said in a company statement. "On behalf of our entire Marathon organization, we offer our sincerest and deepest sympathies to the Davis family. We will miss Steve's valuable contributions to our business, his friendship and his uplifting spirit."

PPG Chairman and CEO Michael McGarry also expressed sympathy.

"We are deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Steven Davis. Steve has been a respected and trusted member of PPG's Board," said McGarry in a statement from the company. "His invaluable expertise and leadership has had a dynamic impact on our organization."

McGarry noted Davis' involvement in PPG's employee resource networks, including the company's Black employee network.

"His passion to help others grow and succeed made a positive impact throughout our organization and went well beyond his Board role," continued McGarry. "This is a sad day for all of us at PPG and we will greatly miss his leadership and friendship."

Davis is survived by his wife, Lynnda Davis, and their three daughters and four grandchildren. His wife released a statement as well:

"We thank all of the love and support we are receiving from the business community both locally and nationally and appreciate the outpouring of condolences from our friends here in Columbus and beyond," said Lynnda Davis.

"Steve's commitment to mentoring and building young leaders and his dedication to diversity and inclusion in business and the community will forever be cherished. We ask for your prayers and that you allow our family to mourn our beloved as we deal with such a sudden and tragic loss to our family."

Funeral arrangements are forthcoming.