Tayto Park founder Ray Coyle dies, age 70

Irish entrepreneur also built Largo Foods into a leading snack foods group

Businessman and Tayto Park founder Ray Coyle has died, aged 70. In a short statement, his family said Mr Coyle died on Wednesday “peacefully, surrounded by his family”.

Based in Tara, Co Meath, Mr Coyle is best known for building up the Largo Foods snacks group, which included leading brands such as Tayto, King crisps and Hunky Dory.

He later opened the Tayto Park theme park and zoo in Ashbourne, Co Meath, which offers rollercoasters and other rides and has become one of the country’s leading visitor attractions.

Mr Coyle is survived by his wife Roz, his son Charles, who is general manager of Tayto Park, and his daughter Natalya, who has competed at three Olympic Games for Ireland.

Mr Coyle was a leading entrepreneur with an eye for marketing and promotion. He used the Tayto brand for the adjoining theme park and in 2007 Mr Tayto ran a spoof campaign to become President of Ireland, getting huge coverage for the brand out of the gag. In 2011, Mr Coyle won the industry category at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

Having started out selling potatoes, Mr Coyle set up Largo in the early 1980s and acquired the Tayto and King brands in 2006 for €62 million. Intersnack took full ownersip of the business in 2015 with Mr Coyle then concentrating on Tayto Park, which was built on a farm he owned.

Mr Coyle opened Tayto Park in 2010 using the crisp brand for the theme park. This sponsorship arrangement is due to expire in January 2023.

In a Facebook post, the Ashbourne chamber of commerce paid tribute to Mr Coyle. “Ray has been a great supporter of the Ashbourne chamber for many years and has created so many employment opportunities in the town. Our thoughts are with Roz, Charles, Natalya and the extended Coyle family. He leaves a fantastic legacy.”

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock

Ciarán Hancock is Business Editor of The Irish Times