RAY & JOAN by Lisa Napoli. Dutton/Penguin Random House (www.penguin.com), 2016, 353 pp., $27.00. ISBN 978-1-101-98495-6.
Click here to purchase.
Let’s play the game of “did you know?”
Did you know that McDonald’s was almost called the Apple Pans? The eventual owner of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc, turned down the chance to have THAT hamburger franchise.
Did you know that the largest single charitable donation was made by the wife of the founder of McDonald’s, Joan Kroc, for $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army?
Ray Kroc, working as a Multimixer milk shake salesman for Prince Castle, stumbled on the idea for a nationwide chain of fast-food restaurants one fateful day in 1954, driving on Route 66 en route to San Bernadino, Calif. He arrived on E Street to a fast-food place called McDonald’s Speedee, operated by brothers Dick and Mac McDonald.
Kroc started to daydream, envisioning hundreds of these restaurants selling the Multimixer, of course. That quickly became an idea of his: to invest in one of his own McDonald’s. Kroc did so, opening his first near Chicago. He eventually bought the rights to all of McDonald’s and the franchise system for a steal, almost literally: $2.7 million.
The book, RAY & JOAN, has a lot to do with Ray and his problems with alcoholism and his broken marriages. Finally, Ray felt at home when he married Joan, his sweetheart and business companion.
My wife and I watched “The Founder” movie recently, the story of Ray Kroc and McDonald’s, and most of the film captured the true-life events. But the film glossed over his love and obsession about Joan. And the book didn’t detail the severe conflict with the McDonald brothers over Kroc’s obsession with expansion of the franchise. While championing Kroc’s ambition to make McDonald’s a restaurant phenomenon of success, in the end, the way Kroc hijacked the business away from the founders gave my wife and me a sour taste in our mouths.
The other half of the book is about Joan who, up until her death, gave away much of the money made by the corporation to charities.
The one for $1.5 billion was one of many, many, many.
While my wife gave kudos to Joan for her extensive charitable gifts, her lasting impression was that between Ray’s coveting another man’s wife (Joan) and Ray’s unfairly taking the business away from the McDonald’s brothers, my wife said that we should never eat at McDonald’s again. But that would mean her husband missing out on the very excellent sausage Egg McMuffin.
In the end, this is a fascinating look at the ultimate result of capitalism, ambition and personal and business mistakes made along the way.