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Joan Kroc: The Mighty McDonald’s Multimillionaire

joan kroc: the mighty mcdonald's multimillionaire

There are so many things I didn’t know about Joan Kroc, who was a multimillionaire. That’s probably because of her entrepreneurial husband, Ray Kroc. He was the one who was always in the spotlight. Because McDonald’s.

Here’s why I now know a heck of a lot about Joan Kroc, the mighty McDonald’s multimillionaire who couldn’t stop writing big checks.

(This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy).

This new book, written by Lisa Napoli, tells the Kroc story. The real one. And, it’s a good book.

(Disclosure: I received a review copy of Ray & Joan from Dutton, who published the book, at no charge.)


What I Learned About Ray And Joan Kroc

First off, Ray and Joan “knew” each other for a long time before they finally married. That’s all I’m going to say. (The book reveals the juicy details)

Ray drank a lot. He liked the cheap stuff: Early Times Whiskey.

Before they got married, Ray & Joan had to live in Las Vegas for 6 weeks in order to obtain divorces from their spouses.

joan kroc ray kroc las vegas riviera

(Ray and Joan lived at the Riviera for 6 weeks)

Joan wore an 11 karat pink diamond.

Ray always wanted demanded that Joan looked meticulous.

Ray loved his whiskey.

(Several more interesting/troubling things are disclosed in Lisa Napoli’s new book)


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More Whiskey

Speaking of troubling things, Ray’s love for whiskey, along with his volatile personality, led to a life-changing day for the Krocs. It was the day that an officer from Cook County (Chicago) greeted Ray with:

  • A court summons
  • Divorce papers from Joan
  • A restraining order

The divorce papers described the defendant (Ray Kroc) as someone with “a violent and ungovernable temper” who “has in the past inflicted upon the person of the plaintiff physical harm, violence and injury.

(More details of the divorce papers can be found in Lisa’s book, on page 130.)


Then…Like It Never Happened

The next thing that happened could have been taken from an episode from any of the popular soap operas that were on television at the time.

A few months after Joan served Ray with the divorce papers, she suddenly called off the divorce.

Maybe it was the pressure she was getting from Ray’s team of powerful Chicago lawyers. Maybe it was something else. To this day, no one knows.

FYI: Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald’s Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away doesn’t read like a soap opera. Not at all. It’s a book that reveals a lot about what Ray was like as a businessman and a husband.

Ray Ray Ray. What about Joan?


Joan Kroc: The Mighty McDonald’s Multimillionaire (With A Check-Writing Addiction)

After Ray’s death in January of 1984, Joan Kroc became a woman on a mission. She became a check-writing machine. Joan Kroc had tons of money at her disposal, and she decided to use it for the public good. Lisa’s book provides a glimpse into the where’s and why’s of Joan’s generous donations.

Short List Of Who Joan Kroc Wrote Big Checks To

Joan believed in the power of public radio.  That’s why NPR received a check for $200 million from her

A check for $18.5 million went to the San Diego Hospice*

*Unfortunately, the San Diego Hospice recently closed.

At its peak, San Diego Hospice cared for 1,000 terminally ill patients a day. It was a national founder and leader in hospice care. In the region, it was revered and supported by philanthropists, with McDonald’s heiress Joan Kroc among its largest benefactors.”

Being married to a man with a love of whiskey influenced her decision to donate $1 million to the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of alcoholism

Joan wrote Ronald McDonald Children’s Charities a check for $60 million (In honor of Ray)

The Salvation Army received a $1.5 billion gift

Joan also donated money to the San Diego animal shelter, AIDS and cancer research, scholarships, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, and Ethiopian famine relief.

The book’s appendix includes pages and pages of specific information on exactly where Joan’s money went.

And for Joan Kroc, it really was all about the money.

The amazing amount of money she had and the amazing amount of money she gave away.


(Las Vegas Riviera picture courtesy of Robert Riley, Flickr)

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franchise article written by joel libava
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joel libava

I'm The Franchise King®, Joel Libava. I help prospective franchise owners avoid bank account emptying mistakes.
For 23 years, I’ve been showing people how to make smart, informed decisions on franchises to buy, and I can help you, too!
P.S. I'm not a franchise consultant/broker.

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