David H. Murdock

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David H. Murdock
Murdock in 2003
David Howard Murdock

(1923-04-11) April 11, 1923 (age 101)
Gabriele Murdock
(m. 1967; died 1985)
Tracy Murdock
(m. 1999)

David Howard Murdock (born April 11, 1923) is an American billionaire businessman, plant-based diet advocate and philanthropist.

Early career[edit]

Murdock was born on April 11, 1923, in Kansas City, Missouri.[3] His father was a traveling salesman; his mother worked as a laundress and housekeeper to make ends meet. He is the middle child of three; he had two sisters. He was close to his mother, who died at 42 of cancer.[4] He grew up in Montgomery Township, Ohio, and dropped out of high school in the 9th grade.[5][6] He was drafted by the United States Army in 1943 during World War II.

Upon relocating to Detroit after the war, Murdock was homeless and destitute. Due to a chance encounter with a good samaritan, he obtained a $1,200 loan to buy a closing diner, flipping it for a $700 profit ten months later.[7] He moved to Phoenix, Arizona, and began working there, first in housing and then commercial real estate.

When the real estate market collapsed in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles where he continued developing real estate opportunities, leading to a string of acquisitions. In 1978 he acquired control of International Mining. In early 1980s he became the largest shareholder in L.A.-based Occidental Petroleum, by selling the corporation his 18% share of the Iowa Beef Packers company.[4]


Murdock purchased Cannon Mills in Kannapolis, North Carolina, in 1982. At the time, the company was profitable and had no debts. He used the company's profits to pay back the loans he secured to make the acquisition before terminating 2,000 positions and selling the company-owned homes. He eliminated the company's $100 million pensions plan, taking $36 million to make personal investments and using the remainder to purchase annuity policies from Executive Life Insurance Company for Cannon employees. Executive Life later failed due to its own poor investments and reduced its payouts to retired employees.[8] Murdock sold the Cannon Mills to Fieldcrest in 1985.[9]

In 1985 Murdock took over the nearly bankrupt Hawaiian firm Castle & Cooke, which owned pineapple and banana producer Dole Food Company. He developed Castle & Cooke's real estate portfolio into residential and commercial properties and turned Dole into the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables.[10] Acquiring Dole privately in 2003, Murdock completed a $446 million initial public offering in October 2009 and the company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker DOLE until a private merger agreement was approved October 31, 2013.[11] As a result of his purchase of Castle & Cooke, Murdock acquired ownership of 98% of Lana'i, the sixth-largest island in Hawaii. In June 2012 Murdock sold his interest in Lana'i to Larry Ellison.[12] He owns other companies, including Pacific Clay.[10]


He has helped contribute to the redevelopment of a 5,800,000-square-foot (540,000 m2) complex in Kannapolis, North Carolina, of a biotechnology research center, the North Carolina Research Campus.[4] The research center is a joint public-private venture, involving major North Carolina universities and private investment. The site of the research center in the middle of Kannapolis was formerly occupied by Plant #1 of Cannon Mills (which became Pillowtex after a series of mergers and acquisitions).[13] Pillowtex filed for bankruptcy in 2003, and closed the mill. This resulted in the largest mass layoff of workers in North Carolina history. Murdock acquired the site and demolished the mill in 2006.[14]

Since the death of his third wife, Gabriele,[15] he has been involved to finding a cure for cancer, advancing nutrition, and life extension.[1] He established the Dole Nutrition Institute to advocate the benefits of a plant-based diet to promote health and prevent disease. With the help of UCLA, he oversaw the writing of the Encyclopedia of Foods, A Guide to Healthy Nutrition. In 2006, he opened the California Health and Longevity Institute (CHLI).[1]

Murdock has contributed more than $500 million toward the creation of the North Carolina Research Campus and David H. Murdock Research Institute which research the health benefits of plants in boosting longevity and reducing disease risk.[4][16]

Personal life[edit]

He has been married six times. In 1967, he married his third wife, Gabriele; they had two children together and he also adopted her son from a previous marriage, Eugene. Gabriele was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1983 and died in 1985.[17] A year later, Eugene died after hitting his head while swimming in the family estate's swimming pool. In 2004 his son David Jr. died in an auto accident on the Santa Monica Freeway.[18] His remaining son Justin serves as CEO and executive chairman of NovaRx and is senior vice president of investments for Castle & Cooke. Previously, Justin was a director at the Dole Food Company, as well as their audit and finance committee until his retirement on May 17, 2013.[19] In 2011, Forbes ranked David Sr. as the 190th-richest person in the "Forbes 400" list and 613th in the "World's Billionaires" list, with a net worth of US$2.4 billion as of March 2013.[4][5]

Since 1985 Murdock has been a pescetarian and promotes a plant-based diet that is high in fruits and vegetables.[4][20] He drinks smoothies two or three times a day with as many as twenty fruits and vegetables, including pulverized banana and orange peels.[4] He eats fish, seafood, egg whites, legumes and nuts whilst avoiding dairy, poultry and red meat. He also shuns the use of alcohol, processed sugar and salt.[4] Murdock does not take vitamin supplements and claims he can live to 125 years on his plant-based diet.[4]

Selected publications[edit]

  • The Dole Nutrition Handbook: What to Eat and How to Live for a Longer, Healthier Life (2010)


  1. ^ a b c Hammers, Maryann (1 November 2007). "The Wellness Question". Ventana. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  2. ^ "Can't Buy Me Love". Forbes. Archived from the original on April 21, 2003. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  3. ^ The Directory of Corporate and Foundation Givers. Taft. 1993. ISBN 9780930807733.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bruni, Frank (3 March 2011). "The Billionaire Who Is Planning His 125th Birthday". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  5. ^ a b "David Murdock". Forbes. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  6. ^ "Gates Buys Into Pineapple Paradise". Forbes. July 13, 2000. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
  7. ^ Source BBC GlobalBiz Podcast : Food for Thought 01 Feb 2010
  8. ^ Glass, Brent D. (1992). The Textile Industry in North Carolina: A History. Raleigh: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources Division of Archives and History. p. 101. ISBN 9780865262560.
  9. ^ Jenkins, Scott (September 16, 2004). "Murdock buys Pillowtex plant ... again". Salisbury Post. Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  10. ^ a b Knap, Chris (January 24, 2011). "State: Elsinore failed to regulate mines owned by legendary developer David Murdock". The Orange County Register. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  11. ^ Carter, Michael (November 1, 2013). "David H. Murdock Completes Acquisition of Dole Food Company, Inc". Business Wire. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  12. ^ Rich Meiers (June 21, 2012). "Oracle's Larry Ellison to buy Lanai". Hawaii News Now. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  13. ^ "The history and culture of Kannapolis". independenttribune.net. Archived from the original on November 8, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  14. ^ "Official Pillowtex, LLC to be Acquired by Iconix Brand Group, Inc". sbcapitalgroup.com. Archived from the original on August 26, 2014. Retrieved August 29, 2012.
  15. ^ "Gabriele Murdock, Wife of Financier, Is Dead at Age 43". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  16. ^ "David Murdock seeks extreme longevity via the “perfect” diet". dcri.org. Retrieved 20 November 2022.
  17. ^ "Gabriele Murdock, 43, ActiveIn Several Art Organizations". The New York Times. 16 January 1985. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  18. ^ "David Murdock Jr. Obituary". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
  19. ^ "U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Report". U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  20. ^ "David Murdock Pledges Endowment in Perpetuity to DHMRI". philanthropynewsdigest.org. Retrieved 20 November 2022.