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Karcher Faces Double Patty of Money Woes : Debt: Carl's Jr. founder may have to sell stock to solve his own financial problems stemming from a troubled real estate deal.

September 17, 1993|GREG JOHNSON and DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

ANAHEIM — Carl N. Karcher, fighting for control of the Carl's Jr. fast-food chain he founded, is also battling to protect his stake in a troubled San Bernardino County development firm in which he invested at least $13 million over the last decade, court records show.

Karcher, 76, has said little about his finances other than that he has defaulted on $30 million in personal bank loans on his real estate and other investments and might be forced to sell some of his 6.1 million shares in Carl Karcher Enterprises Inc., the restaurant chain's Anaheim-based parent.

Karcher is at odds with the company's management over a marketing proposal he maintains would boost revenue and profit, which have stalled. Karcher says his plan would raise the value of the company's stock and reduce the number of shares he would have to sell to solve his personal financial problems.

Court files in San Bernardino show that Karcher was also a partner and investor in a developer building single-family houses throughout the Inland Empire.

The firm, Monnig Development Inc., has built about 1,700 homes with entry-level prices in the Inland Empire since the late 1970s, including about 1,000 in which Karcher was an investor, according to founder Maurice Monnig, a longtime Karcher acquaintance.

The real estate slump has hurt the small company, and in July a Superior Court judge agreed to grant Karcher's request that Monnig be replaced by a court-appointed receiver.

Monnig Development's projects included 233 houses and a 374-apartment building in San Bernardino County, as well as a retail center in Long Beach, according to court records. The company also has several lawsuits pending against it in San Bernardino County, among them a complaint from 21 homeowners alleging faulty construction.

Karcher remains silent as to the details of his personal financial difficulties, which came to light when he threatened to wage a proxy fight to regain control of Carl's Jr., which he founded 52 years ago. "If Carl wanted to disclose all his personal finances, we'd go out and rent a billboard," Karcher spokesman Edward Pasquale said.

Karcher's problems mirror those of many wealthy Southern Californians who invested in real estate and speculative stocks, Pasquale said. "The general economy does affect previously existing projects," he said. "That happens whenever the market gets soft."

The major financial problem facing Karcher, who owns 34% of Carl Karcher Enterprises shares, is "the value of Carl Karcher Enterprises stock," Pasquale said. "If the value of that stock improves, it helps not only Carl, but every other shareholder."

Karcher threatened the proxy fight after board members rejected his proposal to test-market Anaheim-based GB Foods' Mexican-style products at several Carl's Jr. locations. Karcher thinks the GB Foods alliance would improve flagging sales and profits.

A majority of the company's directors maintain that Karcher wants the GB Foods test because, as part of the deal, he would get financial help from GB Foods Chairman William Theisen. Karcher's spokesmen have said there would be no strings attached.

Times correspondent Terry Spencer contributed to this report.

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