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Subway Sandwich Chain Co-Founder Fred DeLuca Dies At 67

Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca poses carrying bread for sandwiches. Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP/Getty Images

Subway co-founder Fred DeLuca poses carrying bread for sandwiches.

Jonathan Nackstrand /AFP/Getty Images

Subway, which has more than 44,000 locations around the world and just celebrated its 50th anniversary, will have to press on without CEO Fred DeLuca, who died on Monday at age 67.

In his book Start Small Finish Big: Fifteen Lessons to Start — and Run — Your Own Successful Business, DeLuca said when he started he knew nothing about making sandwiches, nor the food industry.

In 1965, when DeLuca was only 17 years old, he and his business partner Peter Buck, a family friend, opened their first sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn. Buck provided the $1,000 to get Pete's Super Submarines off and selling.

The pair changed the name to Subway in 1968 and began franchising. Decades later it became the world's largest chain of fast-food franchises. Forbes magazine lists DeLuca's net worth at $3.5 billion

DeLuca, The New York Times reports, was a gregarious, hands-on chief executive. He ran the operations for decades, personally signing company checks, making corporate decisions, traveling the country in an old car and stopping at Subway outlets incognito to sample the food and service and talk with franchise owners and customers.

DeLuca was diagnosed with leukemia in 2013. The company's website reads:

"Since that time he had been receiving treatments and still overseeing the brand as CEO but recently named his sister, Suzanne Greco, as president to run the day-to-day operations."

The company announced his death on Tuesday but has not revealed if a successor has been named as CEO.

Besides DeLuca's health, the company has been facing other challenges. The Associated Press reports:

"The company said this summer that it cut ties with longtime pitchman Jared Fogle, who agreed to plead guilty to allegations he paid for sex acts with minors and received child pornography.

"In addition, some feel Subway has overextended itself with its more than 27,000 U.S. locations. Last year, average sales at established U.S. locations fell 3 percent, according to Technomic."