Inside a Chicken Empire Koch Foods CEO Lives under the Radar

By Harris, Melissa | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA), November 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Inside a Chicken Empire Koch Foods CEO Lives under the Radar


Harris, Melissa, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)


CHICAGO - Billionaire Joe Grendys has no clue how Forbes found him.

After all, he lives in the same Chicago bungalow where he grew up.

His business, Park Ridge, Ill.-based chicken processor Koch Foods (pronounced "cook"), has been on the magazine's list of largest privately held companies for several years running. So someone at the magazine figured out that Mr. Grendys owns almost all of it, pegging his net worth at $2.3 billion and ranking him No. 261 on Forbes list of 400 richest Americans.

Koch Foods, which is not affiliated with Kansas-based Koch Industries, leases its first floor offices in a nondescript office building near O'Hare International Airport. The reception area is lined with flags from the six states where Koch operates plants and a small trophy case filled mostly with small plaques. One reads: "Poultry Man of the Year."

In sum, the "headquarters" of one of the largest food businesses in the country is about as dull as a church fellowship hall.

Its conference room has two wooden bookshelves lined with Koch products, most of which don't say Koch anywhere on them. For instance, Koch processes Wal-Mart's "Great Value" buffalo wings, chicken strips, chicken tenders and popcorn chicken, but a consumer would never know it.

Koch also supplies the chicken nuggets at Burger King and other private-label brands at grocery stores, such as Kroger and Aldi.

"I want to acquire more" companies, Mr. Grendys said. "I definitely have our hook in the water, but right now the industry is performing well. So there aren't a lot of fish biting. But I could see us branching out in the next three to five years, possibly into another protein; not sure what that protein would be yet."

Koch doesn't publish anything about its sales, but according to Mr. Grendys and his top two executives, chief financial officer Lance Buckert and chief operating officer Mark Kaminsky:

* Koch processes more than 50 million pounds of ready-to-cook chicken per week.

* The company slaughters more than 12 million chickens per week. …

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