Ronald Burkle

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.[2][3]

Ronald Burkle
Burkle in 2006
Ronald Wayne Burkle

(1952-11-12) November 12, 1952
Pomona, California, U.S.
ResidenceBeverly Hills, California, U.S.
OccupationCo-founder and managing partner, The Yucaipa Companies, LLC
Years active1986–present
Net worthUS$1.5 billion (June 2019)[1]
Ronald W. Burkle Foundation

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.[4]

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."[1]

Burkle is a prominent Democratic activist and fundraiser.[5][6][7]

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.[8] Joseph worked seven days a week, managing a Stater Bros. grocery store in Pomona and investing his savings in apartment buildings.[8][9][10] To see his father, Burkle stocked shelves in his father's store with bread and corralled shopping carts.[8][11]

By age 13, Burkle had joined Box Boy Local 770.[11] At age 16, he graduated from high school and entered California State Polytechnic University, Pomona to study dentistry.[8][10][12] Less than two years later, Burkle dropped out.[12]

At age 21, he married Janet Steeper, a Stater Bros. clerk and great-grandniece of the aviation pioneers, the Wright brothers.[8] 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.[8][10]

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.[8] Burkle secretly organized a leveraged buyout with Charles Munger, vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, who agreed to put up half of the equity.[8][11] 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.[8][11]


In 1986, Burkle founded Yucaipa Companies, a private equity firm[9] which invests in retail, manufacturing, and distribution.[13]

He has served as chairman of the board and controlling shareholder of numerous companies, including Alliance Entertainment,[14] Golden State Foods, Dominick's, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, and Food4Less. He is currently a member of the board of Occidental Petroleum Corporation,[15] KB Home, and Yahoo![16]

Pittsburgh Penguins

Burkle is part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins[17] National Hockey League team, although his current share is unknown.[18][19]

Technology investments

He has invested in technology startup companies through A-Grade Investments, a venture capital fund founded by Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary and Ron Burkle.[20] A-Grade's investments include SeatGeek,[21] SoundCloud[22] and Airbnb.[23]

He has also invested in technology startup companies through Inevitable Venture, a venture capital fund founded by D.A Wallach, and Chris Hollod. Inevitable Ventures's investment include Picnic Health, 8i, Thrive Market, and Wiser Care.[24]

Media investments

Burkle has recently invested in a branded entertainment company, Three Lions Entertainment,[25] which focuses on branded entertainment events and cross platform marketing.[26]

Wild Oats

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.[27]

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.[28]

Sacramento Republic FC

On January 22, 2019, Burkle was announced as the new lead investor of soon-to-be Major League Soccer franchise, the Sacramento Republic FC.[29]

Investments and transactions

Burkle's investments and transactions include:

Political activities

Burkle has personally contributed millions of dollars to the Democratic Party and raised an estimated $100 million at celebrity-studded fundraising events he hosted for Democratic Party candidates at his Green Acres Estate in Beverly Hills, California.[38][39] Burkle has hosted fundraisers for Bill and Hillary Clinton,[38][40] John Kerry,[5] Cory Booker,[6] and Terry McAuliffe,[41] as well as former Republican California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger,[8] among others.

In January 2011, he hosted a fundraiser to support efforts to overturn Proposition 8, California's ban on same-sex marriage.[42]

In 2004, Burkle helped finance the launch of Al Gore's Current TV,[43] which was sold in January 2013 to Qatar-based cable-news channel Al Jazeera.[44]

During Bill Clinton's presidency, Burkle was a key fundraiser and they became close friends.[7] In 2002, Burkle hired Clinton as a senior advisor on two Yucaipa domestic investment funds.[45] Clinton invested in a Yucaipa global fund focused on foreign companies.[45] 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."[45]

In 2009, Bill Clinton ended his relationship with Yucaipa due to potential conflicts of interest.[7] 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.[46][47]

Awards and recognition

Burkle's honors and awards include the Los Angeles County, California Boy Scouts Jimmy Stewart "Good Turn" Award,[48] the AIDS Project Los Angeles Commitment to Life Award,[49] and the Los Angeles Urban League Whitney M. Young Award.[3][50] He has received numerous honors and awards from labor including the AFL-CIO Murray Green Meany Kirkland Community Service Award[51] and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor Man of the Year.[52]


Ronald W. Burkle Foundation

Burkle is founder and chairman of The Ronald W. Burkle Foundation.[3] 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."[53]

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."[54][55] The Center has hosted UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and former U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.[55]

Board memberships

Burkle is a trustee of The Scripps Research Institute, The Carter Center,[3][56] the National Urban League,[3][56] Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy[57] and AIDS Project Los Angeles.[58] He is a past board member of the J. Paul Getty Trust,[59][60] the Los Angeles County Museum of Art,[61] the Los Angeles Music Center,[62] and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.[60]

Personal life

Burkle is a fan of historic architecture. In 2011, he purchased[63] the partially restored Ennis House, a Los Angeles landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Burkle owns Greenacres, an estate built for Harold Lloyd. Burkle owns two of entertainer Bob Hope's properties, acquiring his John Lautner-designed Palm Springs home for $13 million in 2016 and Toluca Lake, CA home, originally designed by Richard Finkelhor in the 1930s and expanded in the 1950s by John Elgin Woolf, for $15 million in 2017.[64]

In December 2013, Burkle purchased an Olympic gold medal won by Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games for $1.4 million[65] and owns William Faulkner's Nobel Prize for Literature.[66][67]

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.[68]

In December 2018, Serbian Government opened a consulate in Montana and Burkle was named honorary consule of Serbia in the US. On account of that, he applied for Serbian citizenship, which Serbian Government accepted and he was formally naturalized on November 25, 2019, making him the third Serbian billionaire after Philip Zepter and Miroslav Mišković, according to Forbes' list.


Journalism scandal

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.[69]

Follieri and the Vati-Con scandal

On April 30, 2008, a Delaware judge dismissed Burkle's lawsuit against Raffaello Follieri, ex-boyfriend of actress Anne Hathaway, after Follieri agreed to repay $1.3 million Burkle loaned to him in the Vati-Con scandal.[70]

See also


  1. "Forbes profile: Ron Burkle". Forbes. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  2. Hillary Canada and Laura Kreutzer (September 4, 2012). "Yucaipa Returns to Market with $1.65 Billion Target". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on August 5, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  3. "Founder: Ronald W. Burkle". The Ronald W. Burkle Foundation. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
  4. "Company Information: The Yucaipa Companies LLC". Hoovers. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  5. Kasindorf, Martin (March 31, 2004). "Stars align for Kerry fundraising". USA Today. Retrieved 26 July 2014.
  6. Daunt, Tina. "Matt Damon, Ben Affleck to Co-Host Cory Booker Fundraiser". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
  7. Thomas B. Edsall and Sam Stein (December 12, 2007). "Protecting Hillary: Bill Clinton Severs Business Ties With Billionaire Buddy Burkle". Huffington Post. Retrieved July 26, 2014.
  8. Miller, Matthew (November 24, 2006). "The Rise of Ron Burkle". Forbes. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  9. "The Complete Ron Burkle". The New York Observer. 2006-04-12. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  10. Berfield, Susan. "The Other Ron Burkle". Forbes Businessweek. Retrieved 23 July 2014.
  11. Bruck, Connie. "Cashier du Cinema". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  12. Lubove, Seth (November 2, 2007). "Burkle Gets Bill Clinton's Ear, No Respect From Ovitz". Bloomberg. Archived from the original on July 29, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  13. "LA 500: Ron Burkle | Los Angeles Business Journal". Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  14. "#112 Ronald Burkle". Forbes 400. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  15. "Board of Directors". Occidental Petroleum Corporation. Archived from the original on 2004-08-23. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  16. "Board of Directors". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2007-10-01.
  17. "Pittsburgh Penguins Team".
  18. Molinari, Dave. "Ron Burkle opens up on Penguins ownership, Mario Lemieux and the future". Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  19. Whyno, Stephen. "Trump sticks to hockey in honoring Cup champion Penguins". Retrieved 30 April 2018.
  20. "Ron Burkle Crunchbase Profile". Crunchbase. 2012-01-31.
  21. "New Ashton Kutcher Investment". Gigaom. 2011-02-22.
  22. "SoundCloud Receives Investment from Ashton Kutcher's A-Grade". 2011-06-15.
  23. Wortham, Jenna (2011-05-25). "Ashton Kutcher Knows His Start-Ups". New York Times.
  24. "Inevitable Ventures". Angel List.
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  26. "Three Lions Entertainment". Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  27. "Ronald Burkle Harvests His Wild Oats". The New York Times. 2007-02-22. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
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  29. Carlisle, Jeff (2019-01-22). "Sacramento Republic's MLS hopes get boost as Ron Burkle agrees to take over team". ESPN. Retrieved 2019-01-22.
  30. "P. Diddy Bulking Up: L.A. Investor Injects Millions Into Sean John". WWD. 15 September 2003. Retrieved 6 August 2017.
  31. Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A. (2010-03-01). "Burkle Presses Barnes & Noble on Stake". The Wall Street Journal.
  33. Eric Savitz (February 1, 2010). "Burkle's Yucaipa Funds Targets Barnes & Noble; Asks OK To Boost Stake To 37%, Matching Riggios". Barrons. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
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  51. "Biennial Convention". AFL-CIO. Archived from the original on July 28, 2014. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
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  63. "Ennis House". Retrieved July 25, 2014.
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  65. "Penguins co-owner Burkle pays 1.4 million for Jesse Owens' gold medal". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2013-12-09. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
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  70. "Side Dish". New York Daily News. New York. 2008-04-30. Retrieved June 5, 2015.

Further reading

  • Bruck, Connie: "Cashier du Cinema - After supermarkets, private equity and politics, Ron Burkle makes a move on Hollywood". The New Yorker, October 8, 2012 (pp. 76 to 87).
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