Andy Puzder was raised in a working class community in Cleveland, Ohio. Andy’s father took a job selling cars after returning from WWII where he served in the U.S. Army in Europe. Andy’s mother was one of 9 children and earned her high school diploma by attending classes at night because she had to work a day job.
Andy’s ambition was to become a lawyer. To earn his way through school while supporting his family of four he was a jack of all trades, including: an ice cream server at Baskins Robbins; landscaping and tree removal; construction work—operating a jackhammer and laying bricks; and house painting. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college, and a law degree at Washington University. Andy eventually talked his way into his first job at a small law firm in St. Louis.
From 1978 through 1991, Mr. Puzder was a trial lawyer in St. Louis, Missouri. He then entered private practice in California where he represented corporate and individual clients including Carl Karcher, the financially troubled founder of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain. Mr. Puzder resolved Karcher’s financial problems, kept Karcher out of bankruptcy and enabled him to retain a significant ownership in the company he worked so hard to build.
In 1995, Mr. Puzder served as the Executive Vice President and General Counsel for Fidelity, managing one of the largest corporate legal departments in the country. He also worked to create the Santa Barbara Restaurant Group, which was the parent company of the Green Burrito and La Salsa quick-service restaurant chains.
In 1997, Mr. Puzder was named Executive Vice President and General Counsel for CKE Restaurants. That same year, CKE purchased Hardee’s Food Systems, Inc., which owned the Hardee’s quick-service restaurant brand. Hardee’s was a distressed brand and CKE was burdened by over $700 million in debt following the acquisition. Faced with serious financial and operational issues, CKE’s Board of Directors named Puzder as president and CEO of Hardee’s Food Systems in June 2000 and named him president and CEO of CKE Restaurants, Inc. in September of that year.
Puzder is credited with turning around both the Hardee’s brand and CKE, allowing the company to survive, become financially secure, return to growth, and employ tens of thousands of people.
Mr. Puzder has been the CEO of CKE ever since. The company has prospered under his management. It is now a quick-service food organization that owns or franchises more than 3,700 restaurants in the United States and around the world with FY16 sales for all Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants (company-owned and franchised) reaching $4.3 billion and employing more than 75,000 in the U.S. generates $1.4 billion in annual revenue and, with its franchises, employs over 75,000 people in the U.S. CKE Restaurants owns, operates, and franchises the popular restaurant brands of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito.
In 2010, he co-wrote the book Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It, in which he helped provide a framework for instilling strong optimism among U.S. businesses that will create millions of new jobs.
Mr. Puzder and his wife Dee are major supporters of many charitable organizations including the Dream Foundation, a national non-profit serving terminally ill adults, which the Puzders have supported since its inception. The Puzders are also active contributors to local and national charities including: Our Lady of Mt. Carmel; Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara; Laguna Blanca School in Santa Barbara; the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers to support Father Kevin Conroy’s ministry with AIDS-infected children in Cambodia; the Order of Marians to build a church and rectory in Rwanda; the Catholic Church in the Congo to build an orphanage for the survivors of the violence in that country; and, his alma mater, Washington University Law School in St. Louis.
Mr. Puzder has six children and six grandchildren. Mr. Puzder and Dee live in Franklin, Tennessee.