Richest BusinessRichest Billionaires
Net Worth:
$3 Billion
Jun 13, 1937 (86 years old)
Chairman and CEO, Leprino Foods
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What is James Leprino's net worth?

James Leprino is a Colorado-based businessman who has a net worth of $3 billion. Jim Leprino has earned a whole lot of cheese from… cheese. He is the CEO of Leprino Foods, the largest mozzarella producer in the world. Leprino Foods controls 85% of the American pizza cheese market. Leprino Foods is one of the 200 largest private companies in the United States. Annually the company generates more than $3 billion in revenue, selling over 1 billion pounds of cheese and employing 10,000 people.

Leprino Foods supplies cheese to multiple companies including Domino's, Papa John's, and Pizza Hut, among many other packaged food companies. In addition to mozzarella cheese, Leprino Foods also produces a variety of other dairy products, including whey protein, casein, and ricotta cheese. The company has operations in the United States, Mexico, and China.

James Leprino is one of the richest people in Colorado.

Early Life

James Leprino was born on June 13, 1937 in Denver, Colorado, to Italian immigrants. His father, Mike Leprino Sr., was a farm worker who had emigrated from Italy in 1914. In 1950, Mike Leprino Sr. opened a grocery store in Denver's Little Italy. James Leprino worked in the store from a young age, learning the ins and outs of the dairy business. After making homemade cheese for local stores, Mike had the idea to market his own label of cheese under the name "Gina Marie."

Unfortunately, in 1958 the family business was pushed out by larger regional grocery chains.

Leprino Foods Cheese Empire

Using their last $615, the Leprinos created Leprino Foods and decided to shift their focus entirely to manufacturing cheese for pizza which had recently taken off as the country's most-popular food.

Their timing was perfect. The same year that Leprino went into the cheese business, the first Pizza Hut opened in Wichita, Kansas. The following year, the first Little Caesars opened in a suburb of Detroit. In 1960, Dominos started delivering pizzas in Michigan. After just two years in business, Leprino Foods was delivering 200 pounds of mozzarella a week to local Denver restaurants.

In 1968, Leprino hit a stroke of genius. Pizza Hut was looking for a cheese supplier that could help the company reduce their costs while also making their processes standardized. Leprino knew that shredding five pound blocks of cheese was very time consuming and didn't produce consistent slices of cheese. Leprino Foods started selling frozen, pre-sliced blocks of cheese. This was the first time pizza makers could layer slices of cheese onto each pizza simply and efficiently.

Leprino Foods was also among the first companies to sell cheese in shredded form, and they pioneered the "delivery system" to prevent pizza cheese from burning while retaining its creaminess. These innovations, coupled with their dedication to customer service, have made Leprino Foods the preferred cheese supplier for global pizza chains.

$900 Million Inheritance Fight

In 2014 James and his brother Michael Leprino Jr. had a falling out. Michael, who owned 25% of the company's stock, was forced out against his will in November 2014. Michael died in 2018. At that point his 25% stake was inherited by his two daughters Nancy and Marie. James Leprino also has two daughters, Terry and Gina.

In 2017 Leprino Foods issued a dividend that paid $400 million to James, Terry and Gina and $90 million to Nancy and Marie.

In July 2020 Nancy and Marie sued their uncle and two cousins alleging that they managed the company in a way that made it very difficult for them to earn an income. The long story short is that Leprino stock may be very valuable on paper, but the daughters are not allowed to sell it. Leprino does pay dividends from time to time (for example the 2017 dividend), but re-invests the vast majority of profits back into the company for expansion.

One way the family earns income is by lending their dividends back to the company for operations at a lucrative interest rate.

In their lawsuit, the nieces alleged that James informed them that their equity was "worth 0," (since it essentially could not be sold) AND he refused to allow the nieces to participate in the dividend/loan system that would have earned them over $165 million in interest over time.

In their lawsuit, the nieces claimed that the act of rendering their stock worthless AND preventing them from loaning the company money, cost them as much as $900 million.

James Leprino was ultimately victorious in the case.

Personal Life and Real Estate

James Leprino primarily resides in Indian Hills, Colorado. James maintains several residences around the world. He also owns a number of significant planes, including a Gulfstream G450, a Bombardier jet, and a small commuter plane.

James is reportedly a devout Catholic.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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