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About Carl Nicholas Karcher
Carl Karcher dropped out of school after eighth grade to work on the farm where his father was a sharecropper. At 20, an uncle offered him work at his Karcher's Feed and Seed Store in downtown Anaheim, where the young man was later offered a job by a customer who owned a bakery. Delivering baked goods, Karcher noticed that there were thriving hot dog stands everywhere, and decided there was money to be made selling "fast food". He borrowed a few hundred dollars against his Plymouth, and purchased his first hot dog stand in 1941. Parked at the corner of Florence and Central in South Central Los Angeles, business boomed, and within a few years he had several hot dog carts. He then he opened his first full-service restaurant, Carl's Drive-In Barbecue, in Anaheim in 1945. Eventually, Carl's added hamburgers at several new, smaller locations, with the new restaurants dubbed Carl's Jr. because they were scaled-down, smaller versions of Karcher's first restaurant.
The chain's hundredth restaurant opened in 1975. It is now America's fourth largest burger chain, with stores scattered across the American southwest. In 1997, the company purchased control of Hardee's, a burger chain with thousands of restaurants scattered across the American southeast and midwest. Hardee's has since adopted the Carl's Jr. "star" logo, several menu items, and its reputation for slow, indifferent service, even by fast-food standards.
Devoutly Catholic, Karcher and his wife raised a dozen children. He often told reporters that he attended morning mass every day before going to the office, and began every company board meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Karcher was a lifelong member of the Republican Party and a staunch financial supporter of conservative causes. He contributed heavily to anti-abortion groups, and was the largest single contributor to a 1978 ballot initiative in California that would have required public schools in California to fire any teachers known to be gay or lesbian. To gauge how far on the conservative extreme Karcher was, the initiative failed after former Governor and soon-to-be President Ronald Reagan came out against it, citing it as too intrusive.
In 1988, Karcher was fined $688,000 for insider trading, after allegedly advising members of his family of the best time to buy stock in the company. In 2002, a group of Carl's Jr. employees sued, alleging they had been fired for complaining about racial slurs from their bosses on the job. The company eventually paid $255,000 to settle the suit out of court. In 2004, the company reached a $9M settlement after improperly classifying managers and general managers as exempt from California's wage and hour laws.
Carl's Jr was accused of "hamburger porn" for its 2005 television ads featuring a bikini-clad Paris Hilton munching a Carl's Jr. burger while washing a car in an allegedly prurient manner. The chain also hired Hugh Hefner for TV ads in 2003. Karcher, by then no longer in command Carl's Jr., said he was "just heartbroken that a company he founded on Christian principles has taken such an amoral act".
 St. Jude Medical Center, Fullerton, CA
Carl Nicholas Karcher's Timeline
January 16, 1917
Sandusky, OH, USA
January 11, 2008
Fullerton, CA, USA
January 11, 2008
CARPINTERIA, Calif., Jan 11, 2008 -- Carl Nicholas Karcher, 90, founder and chairman emeritus of the Carl's Jr. (R) restaurant chain, passed away today at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, Calif. of complications from Parkinson's Disease.
A public vigil service and Rosary will be held Thurs., Jan. 17 at 7 p.m. and a Funeral Mass will be celebrated Fri., Jan. 18 at 11 a.m., both at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim. Hilgenfeld Mortuary is handling the arrangements for burial at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange on Sat., Jan. 19 at 11 a.m.
Karcher started his business on July 17, 1941 when he and his wife, Margaret, borrowed $311 on their Plymouth automobile and added $15 of their savings to purchase a hot dog cart in Los Angeles.
The hot dog cart proved successful and within a few years, Karcher owned and operated four more stands in Los Angeles. In 1945, the Karchers moved to Anaheim, Calif. and opened their first full-service restaurant, Carl's Drive-In Barbeque. In 1956, Karcher launched the first two Carl's Jr. restaurants in Anaheim and nearby Brea. They were so named because they were smaller versions of the original drive-in restaurant.
In 1966, the company incorporated as Carl Karcher Enterprises, Inc. and offered stock publicly for the first time in October 1981. In 1994, stockholders approved the structure of the company to include a new parent company, CKE Restaurants, Inc.
Karcher was well known for his philanthropic work and always encouraged others to become involved in the community. He served on numerous boards of directors for various charitable organizations and received countless awards and honors throughout his lifetime, including the Horatio Alger Award (1979), the Multi-Unit Food Service Operators' Man of the Year and Golden Chain Awards (1983) and the 1998 Service Award from The Claire Burgener Foundation for the Developmentally Disabled.
A devout Catholic, Karcher was knighted into the Order of Malta, one of the highest honors a layperson can attain. He also received the Pope John XXIII Award from the Italian Catholic Federation for "best exemplifying benevolent, philosophical and charitable principles."
Karcher was born on January 16, 1917, to Leo Alexander and Anna Maria (Kuntz) Karcher. The third of eight children, he was raised on a farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and left school during the eighth grade to help on the family farm. Karcher moved to California in 1939. He married Margaret (Heinz) Karcher Nov. 30, 1939. The orange grove on which Margaret was raised in Anaheim eventually became home to the corporate headquarters of Carl Karcher Enterprises, Inc., and company offices still stand on the site.
"Carl was a pioneer in this industry, a devout Catholic, and a loving family man. He touched countless lives through his generosity as a business leader and philanthropist, and his legacy will most certainly live on," said Andrew F. Puzder, president and CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc.
Karcher was preceded in death by his wife of more than 66 years, Margaret, who passed away from cancer of the liver June 6, 2006. Together, they raised 12 children: Anne Marie Wiles, Patricia LaGraffe, Margaret Jean LeVecke, Carleen Karcher (deceased), Carl L. Karcher, Catherine Karcher, Janelle Karcher, Father Jerome T. Karcher, Rosemary Miller, Barbara Wall, Joseph Karcher and Mary Miller. Karcher is also survived by his 51 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Mercy House, a support center serving homeless families in Orange County and the Inland Empire and founded by Father Jerome T. Karcher, at P.O. Box 1905 Santa Ana, CA 92702 (http://www.mercyhouse.net) or Providence Speech and Hearing Center at 1301 Providence Ave Orange, CA 92868 (http://www.pshc.org).
Carl's Jr. is a wholly owned subsidiary of CKE Restaurants, Inc. (NYSE: CKR) of Carpinteria, Calif. As of the second fiscal quarter ended Nov. 5, 2007, CKE Restaurants, Inc., through its subsidiaries, had a total of 3,036 franchised or company-operated restaurants in 43 states and in 14 countries, including 1,121 Carl's Jr. restaurants and 1,915 Hardee's(R) restaurants. For more information, or to find a Carl's Jr. near you, go to http://www.ckr.com or http://www.carlsjr.com.