E.W. ‘Ed’ Kelley, 86; Food Magnate Key to Steak n Shake Growth

From Staff and Wire Reports

E.W. “Ed” Kelley, 86, the food magnate and philanthropist who revitalized and expanded Indianapolis-based Steak n Shake Co., died of prostate cancer Friday in the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis.

Born Estel Wood Kelley in 1917 on his Irish Quaker family’s farm near Sharpsville, Ind., he graduated from Indiana University with an accounting degree in 1939.

When he turned 80, in 1997, he gave the university -- by far the greatest recipient of his many gifts -- $23 million. The school promptly renamed what is now the Kelley School of Business on its main campus in Bloomington.


Kelley held major positions with such companies as Standard Brands, General Foods, Heublein, and Gulf & Western before serving as chief executive of Fairmont Foods. He introduced such now-familiar products as Tang, Grey Poupon mustard, Cool Whip, Smirnoff vodka, Klondike bars and A1 Steak Sauce to the American palate.

Kelley formed his own company in the 1970s, buying and rebuilding faltering food businesses. He became co-chairman of Steak n Shake in 1981, and built it from 125 restaurants to its current 412 eateries in 19 states.