Masatoshi Ito, the Japanese businessman who played a significant role in building the 7-Eleven chain into a global corporate giant, passed away at the age of 98 on March 10.

Ito's cause of death was attributed to old age, according to a statement released by Ito-Yokado, the company he started. Although the popularity of Ito-Yokado shops, which sold groceries and clothing, has diminished, the legacy of Ito lives on in the 7-Eleven chain. Ito-Yokado eventually became the parent corporation of 7-Eleven through a series of mergers and acquisitions.

Approximately one-quarter of the 83,000 7-Eleven stores worldwide are located in Japan. Ito was the biggest shareholder of the company, with a net worth of $5 billion (669.8 billion yen), according to the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index.

The origins of the 7-Eleven convenience store network date back to 1927, when the Southland Ice Company was formed in Dallas, Texas, through the merger of various icehouse businesses. The stores were renamed 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect their new hours of operation (7 am to 11 pm). Masatoshi Ito, a post-World War II businessman, is credited with expanding the company through acquisitions and product launches in the 1970s and 1990s. Ito transformed the company into a global powerhouse that now sells a range of products, from yogurt to pre-made meals to pharmaceuticals.

Ito-Yokado made an agreement with Southland Company, the American-based owner of 7-Eleven, in 1974, and launched the first 7-Eleven in Japan. In 1990, Masatoshi Ito's company attempted to purchase a majority stake in Southland Corporation. However, he resigned as president of Ito-Yokado in 1992 due to allegations that three executives had paid yakuza gunmen to maintain order at a shareholders' meeting.

Until 2005, Ito-Yokado was known as Seven & I Holdings, with the "I" representing Ito-Yokado and its former honorary chairman, Masatoshi Ito. In a 1988 interview, Ito attributed his success as a 7-Eleven billionaire to both hard work and luck. His contributions to the company have made him a revered figure in the business world.