Meet S. Truett Cathy, The 91-Year-Old Billionaire Behind Chick-Fil-A

via Business Insider: 

Chick-fil-A caused quite the fuss last week by taking a stance against gay marriage

The company was criticized by the mayor of Boston, who promised to stop any attempt by Chick-fil-A to enter the city. Then, the Jim Henson Company spoke out against Chick-fil-A and ended its partnership with the company.

President and COO Dan Cathy, the man who made the remarks slamming gay marriage, is the son of Chick-fil-A’s founder and patriarch, 91-year-old S. Truett Cathy.

The Cathys are the reason that Chick-fil-A has its reputation as a values-based company with strong Christian ideals. The family and their ideals are also a big reason that the Chick-fil-A brand is beloved by many, but hated by others.

So, how did we get to this point? Who is this self-made billionaire behind the second-largest fast food chicken chain in America?

 

Cathy first got into the restaurant business in 1946, after serving in the U.S. Army during World War II

Cathy and his brother Ben returned from the war and opened a diner in Atlanta called The Dwarf Grill, which was later renamed The Dwarf House. Neither of them had any management or restaurant experience. 

It was at this restaurant where the Cathys came up with the chicken sandwich that would later anchor the Chick-fil-A menu. His first Chick-fil-A branded restaurant opened in Atlanta’s Greenbriar shopping center in 1967.

The Dwarf House brand still exists today, and it’s billed as the “original home of Chick-fil-A.”

Chick-fil-A has grown into a massive restaurant empire, and Cathy has become a self-made billionaire

Chick-fil-A has around 1,600 restaurants across 38 states, and it’s the 10th most popular fast food chain in America, raking in more than $4 billion in annual sales. It’s the second-largest fast food chicken chain behind KFC. 

Cathy has accumulated a good sum of personal wealth for himself as well. His net worth is around $1.3 billion, and he clocks in as the 375th richest person in America, according to Forbes.

Cathy is a devout Southern Baptist, and his company’s mission statement reflects his convictions

Chick-fil-A’s “Corporate Purpose” is: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward to all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” 

The mission statement has gotten Chick-fil-A into a bit of legal trouble, though.

For instance, in 2002, a former employee who is a Muslim sued Chick-fil-A, saying that its mission discriminates against non-Christians. He alleged that he was fired from his job after he refused to pray to Jesus Christ during a training session, according to the AP.

One way this is shown to the public is Chick-fil-A’s well known closed-on-Sundays policy

If you want a chicken sandwich on Sunday, don’t go to Chick-fil-A, because it won’t be open. The policy goes all the way back to 1946, and Cathy calls it the best business decision he has ever made. 

From a Chick-fil-A press release that addresses the policy:

“Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the “Lord’s Day.”

He’s quite the philanthropist, doing a lot of charity work through his nonprofit organizations

His big program is the WinShape Foundation, which he started in 1984 as a college scholarship program at Berry College. 

The organization and its arms now offer residential camps, a retreat center and a foster home.

A lot of the money goes to Christian organizations, and WinShape has been criticized for donating to anti-gay groups. Here are the numbers from 2010 alone, according to an analysis done by Equality Matters:

  • Marriage & Family Foundation: $1,188,380
  • Fellowship Of Christian Athletes: $480,000
  • National Christian Foundation: $247,500
  • New Mexico Christian Foundation: $54,000
  • Exodus International: $1,000
  • Family Research Council: $1,000
  • Georgia Family Council: $2,500

Cathy is also a Sunday School teacher, and has been doing it for more than 50 years

Cathy is also a Sunday School teacher, and has been doing it for more than 50 years

AP

Cathy has taught a boy’s Bible study on Sunday morning for over half a century, according to the Christian Examiner. He has now moved into “semi-retirement” from it, but says he still does it “when there’s an emergency.” 

“This is the fourth dimension of his philanthropy—what he does that isn’t seen,” Buck McCabe, Chick-fil-A’s CFO, told Philanthropy Roundtable.

Cathy is an author, having published five books about business, motivation, parenting and more

Here are his books

  • It’s Easier to Succeed Than to Fail — an autobiography
  • Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People — a motivational book
  • It’s Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men — a parenting book
  • How Did You Do It, Truett? — a business book
  • Wealth, Is It Worth It? — a book about money and society

 

 

One of his big indulgences is cars — he has a huge collection, including a Batmobile from “Batman Returns”

One of his big indulgences is cars — he has a huge collection, including a Batmobile from "Batman Returns"

AP

Though he still lives in a “modest” house, according to Philanthropy Magazine, he still has his indulgences. After all, he is a billionaire. 

Other cars in his collection include former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s 1937 Lincoln Continental, George Glaze’s Brewster 8 Town car, a 1931 Duesenberg, and many more.

Cathy is no longer at the helm of Chick-fil-A, but he reportedly stays very involved in the company

Cathy is no longer at the helm of Chick-fil-A, but he reportedly stays very involved in the company

Chick-Fil-A

Day-to-day operations have fallen to his son, Dan Cathy, who is now president and COO. Truett Cathy still serves as chairman of the company. 

Dan Cathy is the one who made the recent anti-gay marriage comments that thrust Chick-fil-A into the national spotlight:

“I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’ I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

Whatever you think of him, and Chick-fil-A, Cathy has never backed down from his religious positions

He “puts his money where his faith is,” as Minyanville’s Danielle Sonnenberg put it. It has become an integral part of the Chick-fil-A brand. 

“There’s really no difference between biblical principles and business principles,” Cathy said at one restaurant opening, according to the Christian Examiner. “The Bible, which is a road map, tells a lot about how to operate a restaurant.”

 

 

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