Dublin, Ohio-Dave Thomas, founder of the Wendy's Old-Fashioned Hamburgers chain, died of liver cancer Tuesday at the age of 69.

Thomas became a household name when he began pitching his burgers and fries in television commercials in 1989. Industry analysts and company officials said Thomas' more than 800 ads helped Wendy's rebound from a difficult period in the mid '80s when earnings sank.

Thomas worked in the restaurant industry from the age of 12, first as a counterman and eventually as a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchisee. He started Wendy's in Columbus, Ohio, in 1969, a year after selling his six KFC franchises back to the company for $1.5 million. Thomas named the restaurant after his daughter Melinda Lou, nicknamed Wendy by her siblings.

Today there are 6,000 Wendy's restaurants worldwide. In 1996, the company acquired Canadian-based Tim Hortons, a coffee and fresh-baked goods chain that has grown to more than 2,000 stores. The chains have combined sales of more than $8 billion. -Associated Press