The person behind McDonald’s iconic Big Mac has died. Michael “Jim” Delligatti, who created the burger almost 50 years ago, was 98.

McDonald’s spokeswoman Kerry Ford reportedly confirmed that Delligatti died at home surrounded by his family late Monday. As one of the company’s first franchisees, Delligatti started offering the Big Mac — for 45 cents — at his store in Uniontown, Pennsylvania, spreading to 47 of his other McDonald’s outlets across the country.

In an interview with the Associated Press in 2006, Delligatti said the company was initially averse to the idea of the new burger as their existing menu of hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and shakes was doing reasonable well. However, Delligatti wanted to offer a bigger, better burger.

In 1967, he decided to double the ingredients of a regular burger — beef patties, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and special sauce — and put out a new variation.

“The first day we just used the regular bun, we didn't have any centre [bread] slice,” Delligatti  told Reuters in 2007 . “Making it that way made it very sloppy. The next day we put the centre slice in, and today it looks the same.”

McDonald’s gauged the popularity of the Big Mac and went national with it in 1968.

The star of the seven-ingredient burger is undoubtedly the so-called “secret sauce.” Last year, McDonald's auctioned off a bottle of the sauce on eBay, attracting bids of more than $18,000.

McDonald’s described Delligatti as a “legendary” person, who “made a lasting impression on our brand.” A McDonald’s spokesperson told BBC’s Newsbeat : “[Jim] is an exemplary individual who embraced the community and championed many causes and organizations that benefitted children.”

“We will remember Jim as an insightful franchisee, a knowledgeable businessman, and an honourable gentleman who left a legacy of four generations of family members running great restaurants in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.”

McDonald’s has over 36,000 outlets in more than 100 countries where more than 900 million Big Macs are sold annually. However, McDonald's says Delligatti received no payment for the creating the company’s iconic burger, ABC reported.

Delligatti remained the burger’s biggest fan and, according to his son, consumed at least one Big Mac every week for decades.