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Richard Cousins was chief executive of Compass Group, which employs more than 550,000 people worldwide, for more than 11 years.

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Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

The chief executive of the world’s biggest catering company, which is also one of Britain’s biggest businesses, died on Sunday in a plane crash near Sydney, the Australian police said.

Richard Cousins, the chief executive of Compass Group, was among the six people killed when a seaplane went down off Jerusalem Bay, just north of Sydney, according to a statement from the New South Wales police. Police representatives confirmed that those who died were Mr. Cousins, his two sons, his fiancée and her daughter, and the pilot of the plane. The cause of the crash was being investigated.

Mr. Cousins, 58, led Compass Group — which employs more than 550,000 people worldwide, providing food for organizations ranging from Costco and Qualcomm to the University of Houston and the stadium that houses the Utah Jazz basketball team — for more than 11 years.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news,” Paul Walsh, the company’s chairman, said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years. Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain’s leading companies.”

Mr. Cousins had been due to leave Compass at the end of March. His planned successor as chief executive, Dominic Blakemore, the company’s chief operating officer for Europe, will now take over immediately, Compass said.

When Mr. Cousins took the helm of the company, it was mired in a corruption scandal, accused of bribing a United Nations official to garner contracts to supply peacekeepers. Settling lawsuits and ending investigations tied to the allegations cost the company 39 million pounds, it said in its 2007 annual report, around $53 million at current exchange rates.

But during his time as chief executive, Mr. Cousins dramatically increased the size of the company. Revenue more than doubled, and operating profit increased fourfold. The company’s share price has increased by more than six times since he took over, to £16, or about $21.60, a share. Compass had full-year revenue of £22.9 billion and profit of £1.7 billion in the most recent financial year, which ended in September.

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