Industry News | January 14, 2008

Carl's Jr. Founder Dies

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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, California of complications from Parkinson's Disease.

A public vigil service and Rosary will be held Thursday, January 17 at 7 p.m. and a Funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday, January 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 Saturday, January 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 November. 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).