1934 (age 83–84)|
|Residence||Newport Beach, California|
|Education||B.A. and M.B.A. UC Berkeley|
|Alma mater||Hope College|
|Known for||Co-founder of Chef America Inc.|
|Net worth||$5.0 billion (2011)|
|Family||David Merage (brother)|
Paul Merage (born 1934) is an American businessman who co-founded Chef America Inc. that popularized the concept of microwavable frozen meals.
Merage was born in Persia in 1934 to a Jewish family, the son of Katherine and Andre Merage. He has four siblings: Louise, Camron, Carrol, David, and Lin. His father ran an import/export business in France before he was forced to flee back to Persia prior to World War II. He attended Alborz High School in Tehran. In 1950, at the age of 16, he immigrated to the United States to attend Hope College in Holland, Michigan. He later transferred to UC Berkeley where he earned a B.A. and a M.B.A. After college, he worked in succession as a marketer for nine years at General Foods, Hunt Wesson and Specialty Foods. In 1977, he and his younger brother, David Merage, founded their own company called Chef America Inc., mortgaging their homes and borrowing money from their parents. Chef America started by selling frozen Belgian waffles - then unfamiliar in the United States - to restaurants as they were difficult to cook. In 1977, the company had $12 million in sales and was the largest company in the world mass-producing frozen Belgian waffles. In 1983, noticing that more women were entering the workforce, he personally developed Hot Pockets, a frozen food that was microwaveable and easy to eat. The product was a resounding success and they expanded the brand to Lean Pockets and Croissant Pockets. In October 2002, he sold Chef America to Nestle SA for $2.6 billion; at the time, the company had sales of $750 million and 1,800 employees. After the sale, he founded MIG Capital LLC (formerly Falcon Investment Group LLC) which managed over $1 billion in assets.
In 2011, his net worth was estimated at $5 billion.
In 2005, Merage donated $30 million to the School of Business at UC Irvine, which was renamed the Paul Merage School of Business in his honor. Merage also donated $3 million to the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County, California. He is a board member and a leading donor for the Pacific Symphony and sits on the board of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The Merage Foundation for U.S.-Israel Trade brings Israeli M.B.A. students and executives to attend seminars in the United States to learn how to market and sell to Americans.
- Los Angeles Times: "Merage Makes It His Business to Help Others - UCI's biggest donor began giving away his money after moving to Newport Beach in 2003" by Jeff Gottlieb April 01, 2005
- New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths Merage, Andre" December 27, 2001
- Family Business Magazine: "A continuing streak of value creation - David Merage and his brother sold Chef America Inc., makers of Hot Pockets, to Nestlé in 2002. He then started a private family office whose portfolio is now valued at more than $2 billion and includes philanthropy among its ventures" by Deanne Stone September/October 2015
- Atlas Obsura: "How the Family Who Got Rich with Hot Pockets Is Giving Away Their Fortune - It’s a lot of money." by Ernie Smith May 31, 2016
- Orange County Business Journal: "Profiles of wealthiest in Orange County" August 16, 2011
- Jewish Journal: "Photo Essay: L.A.’s Iranian Jews repaying Alliance’s generosity" by Karmel Melamed November 2, 2008
- School receives $30 million gift and new name