While practicing law in St. Louis, Puzder met Carl Karcher, the founder of the Carl’s Jr. quick-service restaurant chain. Karcher was embroiled in serious financial difficulties and asked Puzder to move to California as his personal attorney. In 1991, Puzder relocated to Orange County, Calif. He is credited with resolving Karcher’s financial dilemma, allowing Karcher to avoid bankruptcy and retain a significant ownership interest in the company he founded, CKE Restaurants, Inc. (“CKE”).
In 1997, Puzder was also named Executive Vice President and General Counsel for CKE. In 1997, 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. The company underperformed and its market capitalization dropped to about $200,000. Faced with serious financial and operational issues, CKR’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. « less
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