Steven Anthony Davis (1958-2022)

Wisconsin counties
Wisconsin counties
Image courtesy

Steven Anthony Davis was a prominent business leader, a former chairman, and CEO of Bob Evans Farms Inc. from 2006 until 2014.

Davis was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Dolores and Henry Joseph Davis on June 8, 1958. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee with a business degree in 1980 and earned an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago in 1983. Davis worked at Kraft Foods from 1983 until 1993, rising from brand assistant to senior vice president at the Pizza Hut chain and president of the Long John Silver’s A & W All American Foods from 1992 until 2006. He started the first A&W brand restaurant and introduced the WingStreet concept to Pizza Hut in 2003.

In 2006, Davis was named chief executive officer of Bob Evans Farms Inc., a $1.4B publicly traded company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Davis was the second non-Evans family member to run the company, which was closely associated with its founder. He was subsequently appointed chairman of the Board. In 2006, Davis became one of eight African American CEOs of publicly traded companies. Davis was instrumental in the growth of Bob Evans Farms Inc., updating their restaurants and promoting the Mimi’s Cafe chain. However, the sit-down restaurant formats faced challenges from faster service competitors. Mr. Davis resigned in 2014 under pressure from activist investors impatient with his plans.

For ten years, from 2005-2015, Davis appeared in the 75 Most Powerful Black Men in American Business list created by Black Enterprise Magazine. In 2022, Davis was recognized as one of the National Association of Corporate Directors Top 100.

Davis served on the boards of directors of American Eagle Outfitters, PPG, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Albertsons, Marathon Petroleum, Legacy Acquisition, CenturyLink, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Sonic.

Davis drew inspiration from his parents, who encouraged him and his four siblings to pursue their dreams. Davis recalled, “Their message was that the sky is the limit. They never said that because you are an African American, you can go only this far or do only this or that.” Being a symbol of diversity wasn’t always easy. He recalled finding a noose dangling from a tree branch over the CEO parking spot at Bob Evans headquarters. “I never told my board”, he said. “I just buried it.”

Steven Anthony Davis died from cardiac arrest on July 10th, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio.