What the Winklevoss Twins Could Learn from the McDonald Brothers

So Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss are considering putting aside their estimated $140 million settlement for a chance at even more money in the courts. They should remember the McDonald brothers, who actually had built a thriving franchise business before Ray Kroc turned it into a global brand, partly through brilliant real estate strategies the brothers would never have attempted. The McDonalds' payment for ceding their royalty: $2.7 million. (College pension funds put up the money!)

Especially relevant is the conclusion of Richard McDonald's New York Times obituary:

A contretemps of sorts blew up in the late 1970's, after publication of Mr. Kroc's biography, ''Grinding it Out: The Making of McDonald's.'' In it, Mr. Kroc, who has often been thought of as the driving force behind McDonald's, dates its birth to the first restaurant in Des Plaines.

''Up until the time we sold, there was no mention of Kroc being the founder,'' Richard McDonald told The Wall Street Journal in 1991. ''If we had heard about it, he would be back selling milkshake machines.''

Mr. Kroc died in 1984. Later, the company came to a meeting of the minds with Dick McDonald on who did what.

''We mutually agreed that Dick and Mac were the pioneers of McDonald's and helped to found the fast-food industry,'' said Chuck Eberling, a McDonald's spokesman. ''Mr. Kroc was the entrepreneur who founded what today is known as McDonald's Corporation.''

Years after the brothers sold to Mr. Kroc, someone asked Richard McDonald if he had any regrets. None, [David].Halberstam relates [in The Fifties].

''I would have wound up in some skyscraper somewhere with about four ulcers and eight tax attorneys trying to figure out how to pay all my income tax,'' Mr. McDonald replied.

Now that's class.

Presented by

Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

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