Leroy Raffel Made Millions as a Co-Founder of Arby's

Leroy Raffel's net worth at the time of his death was likely substantial, having co-founded the Arby's brand of fast food restaurants decades ago.

Kathryn Underwood - Author

Mar. 24 2023, Published 12:01 p.m. ET

Leroy and Forrest Raffel
Source: Arbys Facebook

The Raffel Brothers, Leroy and Forrest, launched the brand known for its roast beef sandwiches.

If you've never heard the name Leroy Raffel, you are likely still familiar with the brand he co-created with his brother in 1964. Arby's restaurants have now been in business for nearly 60 years. Raffel's net worth as one of the sandwich chain's co-founders was likely impressive before his death on March 21, 2023, at 96 years old.

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Arby's became a household name in the U.S. around the same period as KFC and McDonald's, during the 1960s and 1970s. Two brothers, Leroy Raffel and Forrest Raffel, opened the very first Arby's restaurant in 1964 in Boardman, Ohio.

An Arby's restaurant
Source: Arby's Press Kit

Arby's has grown from its first location in 1964 to 3,402 locations nationwide in 2023.

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How much was Leroy Raffel's net worth?

As the co-founder of the Arby's franchise, Raffel made good money. However, his overall net worth at the time of his death is unknown. The brothers sold the business in 1976 to the Royal Crown Cola Company for $18 million, so it seems likely that each brother walked away with at least a few million in the transaction. Leroy remained as the CEO of Arby's for another three years as well, likely earning a solid salary and bonus each year.

As Nav.com notes, both Leroy and Forrest Raffel retired as multi-millionaires when they eventually stepped down from running Arby's in 1979.

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What was Leroy Raffel's early life like before starting Arby's?

According to Raffel's obituary, the eventual businessman was born in 1927 in Zanesville, Ohio. His childhood took place in New Castle, Pa. He and his brother grew up in the Leslie Hotel, one of several hotels and bars their father ran, so he gained knowledge of the restaurant business from an early age.

Raffel attended a military school and the Wharton School of Business. He also later served in the U.S. Navy, in the discharge office, during World War II.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

An early Arby's, pictured in 1979 with its iconic cowboy hat-shaped sign.

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How did the Raffel Brothers start the Arby's business?

Leroy's brother Forrest "Fuzzy" Raffel were business partners, starting Raffel Brothers as a restaurant equipment company. They moved locations and continued to grow and supply products to various restaurant businesses. That time was what Leroy Raffel called "graduate school prep for our next career in Fast Food Franchising."

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During the early 1960s, the brothers wanted to venture into their own restaurant and after visiting a successful roast beef sandwich shop in Massachusetts, they decided that is what they would focus on. Their roast beef sandwiches initially sold for 69 cents, which was much higher than the McDonald's hamburger price of 19 cents.

Although many have said the name "Arby's" means the initials R.B. for roast beef, the more accurate story is that it simply stands for Raffel Brothers. Leroy and Forrest Raffel faced setbacks including a bankruptcy and failed IPO attempt in 1970, but that decade also brought rapid franchise growth and the addition of popular menu items like the Beef 'n' Cheddar, Curly Fries, and signature Arby's Sauce and Horsey Sauce.

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When did Leroy Raffel die?

Raffel died on March 21, 2023, at the age of 96. The company has posted its condolences in honor of Raffel to all of its social media platforms. He had been married to his wife Shirley for 73 years, and is survived by four children. His brother and business partner Forrest died in 2008 at age 86.

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Arby's continues to offer its roast beef sandwiches, but has expanded its menus over the decades.

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Who owns Arby's today?

Arby's has changed hands a few times since its inception in 1964. The Raffel Brothers sold the company in 1976 (although Leroy Raffel remained as CEO for three years after that). In 1984, Victor Posner and the DWG Corporation acquired Arby's from Royal Crown through a hostile takeover.

In 2008, Arby's and Wendy's combined, but other changes have ensued since then. In 2018, Inspire Brands was formed, following Arby's acquisition of Buffalo Wild Wings and Rusty Taco. Currently, Inspire Brands is the second-largest restaurant company in the nation with over 32,000 restaurants.

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