Carl Karcher

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Carl Karcher
Carl Karcher.jpg
Carl Nicholas Karcher

(1917-01-16)January 16, 1917
Died January 11, 2008(2008-01-11) (aged 90)
Resting place Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Orange, California
Occupation Entrepreneur
Years active 1941–1993
Spouse(s) Margaret Karcher (m. 1939–2006; her death)

Carl Nicholas Karcher (January 16, 1917 – January 11, 2008)[1] was an American businessman who founded the Carl's Jr. hamburger chain, now owned by parent company CKE Restaurants, Inc.

Early life

Born on a farm near Upper Sandusky, Ohio, Karcher was the son of Ohio natives Leo and Anna Maria (Kuntz) Karcher. Leo Karcher's grandparents immigrated from Belgium; Anna Maria Kuntz was of German ancestry. Carl N. Karcher moved to Anaheim, California, where his uncle ran a small business. He was hired by his uncle and worked for him for three years, and later dropped that job to work at a bakery as a delivery boy which increased his weekly salary by $6. He married Margaret Magdalen Heinz Karcher in 1939.[2]

Restaurant business

Karcher and his wife started their first business, a hot dog stand, on July 17, 1941, in Los Angeles when they borrowed $311 against their Plymouth automobile and added $15 from Margaret's purse.[3][4] The stand initially sold hot dogs and Mexican tamales. On his 28th birthday, January 16, 1945, they opened their first restaurant, Carl's Drive-In Barbecue, in Anaheim.[4][5]

Their restaurant quickly expanded, with the restaurants numbering 100 by 1974 and over 300 by 1981. Karcher was investigated and sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading after allegedly telling family members to sell their stock in advance of a poor earnings report. Karcher settled the case in July 1989 for $664,000.[6] Karcher served as chairman and CEO of the company until its own board of directors voted him out in 1993 after years of infighting over strategy.[7]

Karcher objected to the sexualized nature of the Carl's Jr. ad campaigns of the 2000s, and was said to have been "heartbroken that a company he founded on Christian principles has taken such an amoral act."[8]

Karcher died on January 11, 2008, from complications of Parkinson's disease, at age 90, just five days before he would have turned 91.[9]


Karcher received numerous awards for his philanthropy, including, in 1979, the Horatio Alger Award "for his distinction in accomplishments through individual initiative, hard work and adherence to traditional ideals."[10]

On January 16, 2007, his 90th birthday, Karcher and his deceased wife Margaret were recognized with the placement of a star on the Anaheim/Orange County Walk of Stars.[11]

Personal life

Karcher was a devout Catholic and an active member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. He attended mass daily at St. Boniface Catholic Church in Anaheim prior to going to work at his office.[12] Carl and Margaret had 12 children.[4] Their son, Jerome T. Karcher, who is a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, received the Man of Character Award from the Boy Scouts of America for founding Mercy House in Orange County for the homeless and those with AIDS.[13]

Political activities

Karcher was a lifelong supporter of conservative causes and was known to lead the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag at the beginning of CKE board meetings.

Karcher was an early supporter of John Schmitz, a Republican and member of the John Birch Society, who represented Orange County in the California State Senate and later Congress.[14] Schmitz was the presidential nominee of the American Independent Party in 1972.

In 1978, he contributed US$1 million to California's Proposition 6 initiative, also known as the Briggs Initiative,[9] which would have banned LGBT people from serving in California public schools. He was the initiative's biggest financial supporter.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Los Angeles Times, January 12, 2008
  2. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 14–15. ISBN 0-06-093845-5.
  3. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 15. ISBN 0-06-093845-5.
  4. ^ a b c Carl N. Karcher; 90 remarkable years
  5. ^ Schlosser, Eric (2002). Fast Food Nation. New York: Houghton Mifflin. p. 18. ISBN 0-06-093845-5.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Karcher Board Ousts Chairman : Shake-up: Elizabeth Sanders replaces Carl Karcher as battle for control of Anaheim-based Carl's Jr. empire escalates. Founder says he may try to unseat his foes.
  8. ^ Carl Karcher, founder of Carl's Jr. restaurant chain, dead at 90 Associated Press
  9. ^ a b Carl Karcher, Founder of Carl's Jr. Chain, Dies at 90,, January 13, 2008
  10. ^ Biography and video at Carl's Jr. company site, retrieved 2010-08-15
  11. ^ Campbell, Bill (2007-01-19). "Bill Campbell's Third District Report". Board of Supervisors, Orange County, California. Archived from the original on 2011-07-26. Retrieved 2010-08-14.
  12. ^
  13. ^ Mercy House
  14. ^ David Haldane and Jean O. Pasco (11 January 2001). "Obituary: John Schmitz, Former Right-Wing Congressman From Orange County". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 Aug 2015.

A remarkable lunch with Carl Karcher

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