Lovie Yancey, Founder of Fatburger Restaurant Chain, Has Died

Lovie Yancey, the founder of the popular Fatburger restaurant chain known for huge burgers and music blasting from jukeboxes, has died.

Yancey, who started with a hamburger stand in 1950's Los Angeles
and saw it expand to more than 90 locations across the country and
overseas, died Jan. 26, Fatburger's parent owner Fog Cutter Capital
Group Inc. said in a statement.

The statement did not include information on the circumstances surrounding her death, her age or where she died.

Calls to Fatburger's marketing representative, Elaine Patel, were not returned.

"Lovie Yancey's vision for a restaurant where families can enjoy delicious food while listening to great music has created lasting memories for many generations," Fog Cutter chief executive Andy Wiederhorn said in the statement. "Fatburger's success is a testament to her strong will and work ethic."

In 1947, Yancey opened her first stand near downtown with a partner, calling it Mr. Fatburger. They parted ways five years later, and Yancey changed the business name to Fatburger with sights on expanding it. For her efforts, Yancey was recognized as a trailblazing black businesswoman of her time.

She turned cooked-to-order burgers made from fresh instead of frozen patties, onion rings and thick fries trademarks of a Fatburger restaurant. A music lover, she also put jukeboxes in the restaurants to keep it lively.

Her flagship location in Beverly Hills drew many celebrity diners, some of whom went on to invest in the franchise. Earvin "Magic" Johnson invested in the restaurant chain for several years, then sold his majority stake in 2003 for $6 million to Portland, Ore.-based Fog Cutter.

Queen Latifah helped invest in a Fatburger in Miami, and musician Pharrell Williams has partnered with the chain to open Fatburger's first 10 locations in China.

Fog Cutter did not release information on Yancey's survivors, or plans for her memorial service.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-02-02-08 0015EST

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