Ronald Burkle

Age: 45

Net Worth: $1.3 billion

Source of Wealth: Supermarkets

Residence: Beverly Hills

After years of relatively quiet dealmaking, Ronald Burkle is gaining a higher profile as one of L.A.'s top business leaders both as chairman of Fred Meyer Inc. (which owns Ralphs Grocery Co.) and as managing partner of L.A.-based Yucaipa Cos., the investment vehicle that has driven his supermarket acquisitions.

With his purchase of Portland-based Fred Meyer in March, Burkle controls more than 1,200 grocery stores in the Western United States, including 321 Ralphs and Hughes markets, 80 Food 4 Less markets, and more than 800 stores under the banner of Fred Meyer or its subsidiaries. He also controls 101 Dominick's Finer Foods markets in the Chicago area.

Burkle has excellent connections to capital markets, especially the Beverly Hills offices of Apollo Advisers. Repeatedly, Apollo has ponied up debt and equity to advance Burkle in his unparalleled "industry roll-up" of the grocery store business.

Burkle, who grew up in Claremont, was born and bred to the food business his father was a longtime executive of the Stater Bros. chain. Father and son linked up with Berkshire Hathaway in the early 1980s to buy Stater Bros., and in 1986 Burkle formed the Yucaipa Cos., which served as his investment vehicle for future acquisitions.

Today, Burkle uses his Green Acres estate in Beverly Hills (former home of silent film star Harold Lloyd, and then department store heir Ted Field) for political and charity parties. He is co-chairman (with Michael Ovitz) of a campaign to raise $1 billion for a new UCLA Medical Center, and together with the Food 4 Less Foundation has kicked in $15 million for the Disney Concert Hall.

He has a compelling theory about supermarkets: People may shop for books or clothes on the Internet, but they are going to pick out their food in person. And, of course, people are not going to stop eating.

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