Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away

by Lisa Napoli


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The movie The Founder, starring Michael Keaton, focused the spotlight on Ray Kroc, the man who amassed a fortune as the chairman of McDonald’s. But what about his wife Joan, the woman who became famous for giving away his fortune? Lisa Napoli tells the fascinating story behind the historic couple.

Ray & Joan is a quintessentially American tale of corporate intrigue and private passion: a struggling Mad Men–era salesman with a vision for a fast-food franchise that would become one of the world’s most enduring brands, and a beautiful woman willing to risk her marriage and her reputation to promote controversial causes that touched her deeply.

Ray Kroc was peddling franchises around the country for a fledgling hamburger stand in the 1950s—McDonald’s, it was called—when he entered a St. Paul supper club and encountered a beautiful young piano player who would change his life forever. The attraction between Ray and Joan was instantaneous and instantly problematic. Yet even the fact that both were married to other people couldn’t derail their roller coaster of a romance.

To the outside world, Ray and Joan were happy, enormously rich, and giving. But privately, Joan was growing troubled over Ray’s temper and dark secret, something she was reluctant to publicly reveal. Those close to them compared their relationship to that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. And yet, this volatility paved the way for Joan’s transformation into one of the greatest philanthropists of our time. A force in the peace movement, she produced activist films, books, and music and ultimately gave away billions of dollars, including landmark gifts to the Salvation Army and NPR.

Together, the two stories form a compelling portrait of the twentieth century: a story of big business, big love, and big giving.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101984956
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/15/2016
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 521,278
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Lisa Napoli has lived for the last dozen years in southern California, where she was inspired to write this book by a public artwork with a mysterious provenance. In her three decades as a journalist, she's worked for The New York Times, MSNBC, the public radio show Marketplace, and a variety of other outlets.  She's covered everything from presidential campaigns, to hacker conventions and a hostage standoff, to the dawn of the World Wide Web.  Her first book, Radio Shangri-La, is about the impact of media culture on the mysterious Kingdom of Bhutan, where she was invited to help start a radio station at the dawn of democratic rule.

A graduate of Hampshire College, Lisa leads an award-winning volunteer cooking group at the Downtown Women's Center on Skid Row in Los Angeles.  She's also the founding board chair of the Bhutan Media Society, an all-volunteer news outlet created by Bhutanese refugees in diaspora.

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Excerpted from "Ray & Joan"
by .
Copyright © 2016 Lisa Napoli.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1 Jewels 1

2 Land of Crazed Speculation 15

3 Blond Beauty 41

4 First Fruits 58

5 Wretched City 74

6 The J and R Double Arch Ranch 97

7 The JoniRay 121

8 The Secret Everyone Knows 143

9 1984: Two Widows 175

10 "Dear World, I Really Love You" 196

11 Impromptu 220

12 St Joan 249

Postscript 259

Acknowledgments 267

Appendix: Where Did the Fast Food Fortune Go? 275

Notes 287

Bibliography 345

What People are Saying About This

author of JIM HENSON: The Biography and GEORGE LUCAS: A LIFE - Brian Jay Jones

In the terrific Ray & Joan, Lisa Napoli tells a story with as many colorful layers as a Big Mac. Behind the wonderfully messy, complicated, rags-to-riches tale of Ray Kroc, the mastermind of one the world's most iconic brands, is the equally complicated and generally unknown story of his wife Joan, one of the world's greatest — and stealthiest! — philanthropists. A most compelling story, most compellingly told.

author of FIRST WOMEN and THE RESIDENCE - Kate Andersen Brower

A beautifully written glimpse into the real lives of an American power couple and the incredible contributions one woman made to society.

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Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and the Woman Who Gave It All Away 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
literarymuseVC More than 1 year ago
Ray Kroc, the founder of the world-wide famous McDonald stores, began with little money but a large imagination. Lisa Napoli has given the reader a fascinating look at how this mega-business began. Not only were the ideas waiting to be born by Ray and other entrepreneurs but also the machines that facilitated the delivery of “fast food” within minutes of being ordered. So, we learn how hamburger presses, French fry cutters, and mixers to make multiple shakes at a time were made. We hear how company policy was made on how franchise owners would all operate the McDonald stores the same way, including the precise timing for making hamburgers, fries, soda and shakes. No one could deviate with his or her own version of what was better depending on geographic areas. Ray’s first and second wives wanted quick success but grew increasingly frustrated at the ups and downs of this process, financially as well as technologically. His third wife changed his life completely and added the final touch to a dream come true! Joan Kroc, on the other hand, saw her poor, younger years as ones that would shape the rest of her life but certainly not in the way that most people would expect. Joan had few talents except for a dazzling, sexy voice. She was also quite beautiful and took care of her appearance carefully for the rest of her life. Her empathy with people who were trying to make a living with the lowest minimal wage made her a gift giver whom some called overly generous and others called crazy. Crazy or not, the reader is uplifted at the way Joan tipped tax drivers and waiters/ waitresses, founded and supported the McDonald’s House institution for families with children suffering from cancer, and it just goes on and on with National Public Radio receiving a shockingly large ($200,000,000) donation, as well as other donations to zoos around the world and a radio station, et al. Ray and Joan… is fascinating reading sure to please all readers! Very nicely presented Lisa Napoli!
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
This was quite an interesting book. I learned a lot that I did not know. I knew that Ray Kroc had bought out the brothers and started McDonald's, but I didn't know exactly how it happened. I'm still not sure why the brothers were so mad at Ray. I don't think McDonald's would be the company it is today without him. As for the book, like I said it was pretty interesting at first. Towards the end, it started becoming a little tedious when it started talking about Joan giving away all the money. There was one part where she gave a lot of money to a town that had been severely flooded. She gave the money anonymously, yet several days later she shows up in her private jet. Surprise, then the townspeople knew where the money had come from. She did do a lot of good for a lot of people, however. Together the couple knew a lot of famous people. And it sounds like their marriage was certainly not always a blast as Ray did like his Early Times. When I read about all the jewels Joan had, that was just crazy. I like to read books about the inside lives of famous people and this one definitely told a lot. There were a lot of things that were alleged and a lot of things that were told. Ray Kroc was definitely a businessman and that was his life. The book may have things out, but there were a lot of things that were not held back. It was a very interesting read. It amazed me that when Ray divorced his first two wives, he had someone else tell them he wanted a divorce. That part just blew me away. Especially the way he handled it with his second wife. You'll have to read the book and check that one out. I would like to think Penguin Group Dutton for approving my request and letting me see into the lives of Ray and Joan and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.