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Ronald Wayne Burkle (born November 12, 1952) is an American businessman. He is the co-founder and managing partner of The Yucaipa Companies, LLC, a private investment firm that specializes in U.S. companies in the distribution, logistics, food, retail, consumer, hospitality, entertainment, sports, 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 was estimated at US$2 billion in February 12, 2018. He had been ranked No. 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.
In 1986, Burkle founded Yucaipa Companies, a private equity firm which invests in U.S. companies in the hospitality, sports, entertainment, logistics, food, consumer, light industrial, retail, manufacturing, and distribution.
On February 26, 2021, Burkle announced that he was pulling out his interests in Major League Soccer expansion club in Sacramento due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This move placed Sacramento expansion hopes in doubt.
In January 2012, Burkle invested in Artist Group International, a concert-booking firm whose clients include Billy Joel, Metallica, and Rod Stewart. In March 2013, Burkle invested in a branded entertainment company, Three Lions Entertainment, which focuses on branded entertainment events and cross platform marketing. In 2014, he bought Artist Group International and, through the Paradigm Talent Agency, partnered with London's CODA Music Agency and X-ray Touring. That same year, Burkle acquired a minority stake in Independent Talent through Yucaipa fund.
In 2018, Burkle's investment firm Yucaipa acquired a minority stake in the Spanish music festival Primavera Sound.
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.
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.
In 2014, Burkle acquired Soho House, a chain of hotels and private members' clubs.
In 2019, Burkle sold a 50% stake in the Sydell Group to MGM Resorts International. He maintains ownership stakes in a number of other hotel properties.
Burkle offered to purchase the financially troubled Sacramento Kings franchise and prevent the team from relocating to Anaheim; however, a conflict of interest as a part-owner of Relativity Sports forced him to drop out.
Debt holdings of Relativity Media, an independent studio company. As part of the deal, Burkle joined the board of directors of the company.
Burkle provided Amalgamated Bank with a $100 million loan in 2011, taking a combined 41% stake in Amalgamated along with Wilbur Ross.
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 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 December 2018, the Serbian Government opened a consulate in Montana and Burkle was named honorary consul 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 Mi?kovi?, according to Forbes' list.[verification needed]
On January 6, 2020, Burkle's son Andrew was found dead in his Beverly Hills Home.
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.
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. In 2018, Follieri, who was deported back to Italy in 2012 after serving 4+1⁄2 years in prison for the scandal, stated that he and Burkle were once again on good terms and that Burkle was among the group of investors helping him acquire 50 percent in the Foggia Calcio soccer club in Southern Italy.
Ronald Burkle name was found in Jeffrey Epstein's black book and on Epstein's private jet log.
Burkle took what were described as humanitarian trips to Africa with Bill Clinton on Epstein's private Boeing 727, the Lolita Express. Following the Africa trip, Burkle reportedly returned home via a commercial jet, referring to Epstein as "creepy".
^"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/.