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5 Things You Might Not Know About the Krocs of McDonald’s

Lisa Napoli’s Ray & Joan dives into the lives of the longtime McDonald’s owner and his wife.

Ray and Joan Kroc with the San Diego Chicken, a mascot of the Padres.   Photo: Bettmann Collection/Getty Images

1 Joan was a trailblazer.

Thanks to a bizarre corporate policy, women weren’t allowed to work at McDonald’s until the mid-1960s. But when Joan’s first husband, Rawland Smith, bought a franchise, she ran the restaurant’s day-to-day operations anyway.

2 The Krocs’ marriage started as an affair.

Ray fell for Joan when he saw her playing piano at a lounge in St. Paul in 1957. After more than a decade of openly pining for each other, the two dumped their spouses and ran off to Vegas.

3 Ray kept looking for the next big thing.

Once McDonald’s became a hit, Kroc got bored. He considered building amusement parks and invested in pet motels before buying the San Diego Padres on a whim in 1974. (The Cubs, his first choice, weren’t for sale.)

4 They knew how to use their cash.

Ray donated to charities wherever he opened a franchise. And Joan had her own projects: Having lived with Ray’s drinking problem, she started Operation Cork, a program for families of alcoholics. And the Kroc Center in Chicago was one of 26 community hubs built with a $1.5 billion donation to the Salvation Army.

5 Joan didn’t skimp on herself, either.

There was her $16 million Gulfstream jet (cheekily named Impromptu) and $32,000 engraved replica of the Declaration of Independence. But her real pride and joy: a $3 million diamond-encrusted Fabergé egg.


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