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Ronald Wayne Burkle (born November 12, 1952) is an American billionaire businessman. He is co-founder and managing partner of The Yucaipa Companies, LLC, a private equity and venture capital firm that specializes in underperforming U.S. companies in the distribution, logistics, food, retail, consumer and light industrial sectors.
Yucaipa has executed grocery-chain mergers and acquisitions involving supermarket chains including Fred Meyer, Ralphs, and Jurgensen's, and once owned stakes in about 35 companies, including the grocery chains A&P and Whole Foods Market, before their respective demise and takeover.
Burkle's net worth is estimated at US$ 2 billion as of February 12, 2018. He had been ranked #633 on Forbes' list of "The Richest People on The Planet 2014."
Burkle is a prominent Democratic activist and fundraiser.
Early life and education
Ron Burkle was born on November 12, 1952, the elder of two sons, to Betty and Joseph Burkle in Pomona, California. Joseph worked seven days a week, managing a Stater Bros. grocery store in Pomona and investing his savings in apartment buildings. To see his father, Burkle stocked shelves in his father's store with bread and corralled shopping carts.
At age 21, he married Janet Steeper, a Stater Bros. clerk and great-grandniece of the aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers. They would have three children together. Burkle parlayed a $3,000 investment in American Silver and another metals company into $30,000 and began investing in and flipping undervalued grocery stores. He made at least one deal with the assistance of junk bond financier Michael Milken.
Burkle was promoted to store manager at Stater Bros. and later became a vice president at Petrolane, Inc., Stater's parent company. When he was 29, Petrolane decided to sell Stater Bros. Burkle secretly organized a leveraged buyout with Charles Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, who agreed to put up half of the equity. Burkle made his bid to Petrolane's board that was 20% lower than Petrolane's internal valuation. The board rejected Burkle's offer and fired him. Burkle's portfolio was by then worth some $5 million, and during the next five years, he continued to invest in stocks and oversaw his family's rental properties.
Burkle has recently invested in a branded entertainment company, Three Lions Entertainment, which focuses on branded entertainment events and cross platform marketing.
Wild Oats Markets was an operator of natural foods stores and farmers' markets in North America. Burkle started buying Wild Oats stock in February 2005. By the time Whole Foods Market, a natural-foods grocer, agreed to pay $565 million for Wild Oats, Burkle was the largest shareholder of Wild Oats.
Golden State Foods
Burkle sold his majority stake in supplier Golden State Foods to St. Louis-based Wetterau Associates for about $110 million. Golden State, one of McDonald's biggest suppliers, operates 11 distribution centers in the United States and abroad and two U.S. processing plants.
During Bill Clinton's presidency, Burkle was a key fundraiser and they became close friends. In 2002, Burkle hired Clinton as a senior advisor on two Yucaipa domestic investment funds. Clinton invested in a Yucaipa global fund focused on foreign companies. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, then-U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) expressed concern that such investments could be used by foreign governments as "instruments of foreign policy."
In 2009, Bill Clinton ended his relationship with Yucaipa due to potential conflicts of interest. Following "months" of negotiations, the two were not able to agree on a final payment for Clinton's advisory services, estimated at up to $20 million, and Clinton "walked away" from the potential payout.
Burkle is founder and chairman of The Ronald W. Burkle Foundation. The Foundation's stated mission is to "positively influence people around the world and their communities" by supporting programs that "strengthen international understanding, foster worker's rights, empower underserved communities, nurture the arts and architecture, engage children in learning and advance scientific research."
Burkle Center for International Relations
Burkle serves as co-chairman of The Ronald W. Burkle Center for International Relations at UCLA, to promote "research on and promotes discussion of international relations, U.S. foreign policy, and complex issues of global cooperation and conflict." The Center has hosted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Burkle owns the Mediterranean-styled mansion overlooking the bluffs of Black's Beach on a nearly six-acre plot in the La Jolla Farms neighborhood of San Diego, California. It was purchased on February 5, 1999, for $15.3 million and the current tax assessment is $34 million.
In April 2006, Burkle accused New York Post columnist Jared Paul Stern of attempting to extort money from him in exchange for stopping the publication of stories in Page Six, the paper's gossip column, about his private life. He secretly videotaped two private meetings between himself and Stern, with the second meeting orchestrated and monitored by the FBI. Stern allegedly asked Burkle for a $220,000 investment in his clothing business in exchange for better coverage. Stern was subsequently fired by the Post.
^"Supermarket Billionaire Ron Burkle's Lavish Mediterranean Trophy Estate in La Jolla, California." The Pinnacle List, www.thepinnaclelist.com/pics/supermarket-billionaire-ron-burkle-lavish-mediterranean-trophy-estate-la-jolla-california/.