CHICAGO – Melvin J. Gordon, who led Tootsie Roll Industries Inc. for 53 years, died Jan. 20 following a brief illness. Mr. Gordon was 95.

Mr. Gordon’s death was announced by the company in an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company said its board has named Ellen R. Gordon, Mr. Gordon’s widow, as his successor as chairman and chief executive officer. Ms. Gordon, who is 83, is the president and chief operating officer and is a board member of the company.

“The appointment was made in accordance with the company’s existing succession plan,” the Tootsie Roll said in the filing.

A majority of Tootsie Roll outstanding shares is owned by members of Mr. Gordon’s family – 52.8% of the company’s common stock and 95.6% of the Class B stock.

With annual sales of $540 million, Tootsie Roll manufactures and sells candy under brands that include Tootsie Roll, Tootsie Roll Pops, Charms, Junior Mints, Charleston Chew, Sugar Daddy and Sugar Babies.

The business was established in 1896 by Leo Hirschfield, who named the Tootsie Roll after his five-year old daughter Clara, nicknamed “Tootsie.”

The company has been publicly traded since 1922. The corporate name was changed to Tootsie Roll from Sweets Co. of America in 1966. Mr. Gordon married Ellen Rubin in 1950. Ms. Rubin’s father William at the time was president of the company.

“Melvin’s life represented the very highest values in business, wisdom, generosity, and integrity,” Ms. Gordon said. “Tootsie Roll has seen great growth and success during his time as chairman.”

The company for years has been the subject of takeover conjecture. News of Mr. Gordon’s death rekindled this speculation. In late trading Jan. 21 on Nasdaq, Tootsie Roll shares were $33 per share, up $2.19, or 7%, giving the company a market capitalization of almost exactly $2 billion.