PORTLAND, Ore. -- William (Tiger) Warren, founder and chairman of the Macheezmo Mouse restaurant chain, was killed when the float plane he was piloting plunged into the Columbia River just after takeoff. He was 48.

His three sons also died in the crash Saturday afternoon, which killed everyone aboard.

Jack, 14, Will, 13, and Rob, 9, were spending Thanksgiving with their father and flying to the family's summer home in Washington state. Warren's 8-year-old daughter, Lucy, had stayed behind in Oregon with her mother, Geraldine, who was divorced from Warren and now is married to Portland stockbroker H. Gerald Bidwell.

Warren, his ex-wife and Bidwell had just emerged from a long ordeal in court as witnesses against a disgruntled investor who blamed Bidwell for a $50,000 stock loss.

Daniel Loren Jenkins Jr. was convicted Nov. 19 of soliciting aggravated murder for calling Warren and offering to "whack" Bidwell if Warren would pay him for it.

Warren immediately called police. Evidence and testimony at trial showed that Jenkins had stalked the Bidwells for months, made harassing phone calls, sent death threats via e-mail and threatened the lives of their six children -- including the four children of Warren and his ex-wife.

One e-mail, sent on New Year's Eve, read: "Jerry Bidwell. You're going to die. Think about that this weekend as you play with twin babies Alex and Brooke," referring to the Bidwells' newborn children.

Geraldine Bidwell said during the Jenkins trial that she worried her children would suffer lasting trauma from the publicity, and could even be shunned by friends because of it.

Gerald Bidwell told The Oregonian shortly after the family learned about the crash that his wife was completely devastated.

"She will miss them very much," Bidwell said. "Fate can be cruel."

Warren and his wife were in the middle of what had become a bitter divorce in 1994 when he took Macheezmo Mouse public, turning his shares into a $9.2 million investment in one day.

But the chain of 13 Mexican-style restaurants since has struggled, despite its wide menu featuring many low-fat dishes aimed at attracting what the company saw as a growing market of health-conscious customers, including aging Baby Boomers.

In an interview with The Associated Press in 1994, Warren had expressed great optimism that a trend toward health foods would keep his company expanding well into the next century. He was visibly proud about offering a fast-food menu he considered healthy and nutritious, and he was critical of other fast-food chains for offering high-fat food.

He also was sensitive about his divorce, and talked privately about his frustration with his business success while his family was breaking apart.

But the business growth he had envisioned never arrived.

Last year, he had started selling Macheezmo Mouse burritos through Costco stores in Oregon and Washington in hopes of spurring non-restaurant sales of the Macheezmo label. But the company, which hit a high of about $11 a share when it went public, was trading for just pennies recently.

Warren was the son of Robert Warren, a Portland entrepreneur who helped found Cascade Corp., a major manufacturer of hydraulic attachments and accessories for lift trucks.

Robert Warren started Cascade Corp. with one employee, an old lathe and a drill press in 1943. It went public in 1965, and reported sales of $234 million worldwide by the time he died in 1997.

Warren's elder brother, Robert Warren Jr., is president and chief officer of Cascade Corp.

Warren had worked for Esco as a steel salesman before founding Macheezmo Mouse in 1981. Before that, he had a short career as a filmmaker, and made a number of friendships in the local and national film industry.

Warren's movie "Skateboard," one of the first features on the sport, was produced in the 1970s in Los Angeles. A later movie, "Rockaday Richie and the Queen of the Hop," was produced in Portland, said Bill Foster, director of the Northwest Film Center, who had known Warren since the '70s.

"Tiger had a lot of personality. He was an experimenter, he liked to discover new things," Foster told The Oregonian.

Warren also was a friend of Portland filmmaker Gus Van Zant, who said the name for the restaurant chain was actually a nickname for Warren.

"He was very macho but wasn't very big," Van Zant said. "He had a great ability to talk to anybody. He was a great guy."


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