Paul Merage is an Iranian entrepreneur. He is the former CEO and co-founder of Chef America Inc. who invented Hot Pockets microwaveable snacks.
He received a bachelors and an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. He and his brother David Merage founded Chef America which they sold to Nestlé in 2002 for $2.6 billion.
In 2005, Paul 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 to the Merage Jewish Community Center of Orange County, California.
Paul Merage came to the United States from Iran as a 16-year-old, founded Chef America frozen foods with his brother and invented the formula for microwave-crisping Hot Pockets sandwiches. They sold Chef America to Nestlé in 2002 for $2.6 billion. The company was still growing, but Merage wanted something more.
Merage moved from Colorado to Newport Beach and immediately became one of the county’s most active philanthropists. UCI’s business school bears his name after a $30 million gift, and he wants its graduates to steer the nation toward an “innovation economy.”
He started four foundations with total assets of more than $35 million. The bulk of the money is in the family foundation, which gives to the other three: The Merage Foundation for the American Dream, which focuses on immigration issues and chooses bright young immigrants for $20,000 grants to help them achieve their goals; Children First, which recruits skilled retirees to work with low-income kids; and The Merage Foundation for U.S.-Israel Trade.
The $30 million donation, the largest ever for University of California-Irvine, was made by Paul Merage in April 2004 to the Graduate School. The gift will support the creation of endowed chairs that will facilitate the school’s ongoing recruitment of top faculty; provide fellowships to support the recruitment and retention of top graduate students from around the country; and initiate innovative research centered around business growth. In recognition of the gift, the Graduate School of Management was renamed The Paul Merage School of Business.
Paul Merage is the Founder and President of the Merage Foundations. He is Chairman of Falcon Investment Management, a private investment management firm; Stoneridge Capital Partners, engaged in commercial real estate investments; and Silverpoint Investments, a private-equity capital company. Paul was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Chef America, a major manufacturer of frozen food products, best known for Hot Pockets. He is active in a number of philanthropic endeavors, including the Merage Foundations. Paul is also a Trustee of the University of California, Irvine, and he serves on the Boards of the Orange County Performing Arts Center and the Pacific Symphony. He is also the 2008 recipient of the PARSA Community Foundation Philanthropist of the Year Award. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and master’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.
According to Forbes, his net worth is $550 million and his hometown is Englewood, Colorado. He is married with 3 children.
The Merage family also sponsors a yearly summer film program at Chapman University. Every summer, 14 students from local high schools are chosen to take part in a film program hosted by Chapman University and professors at the Dodge College of Film and Media Arts. With everything paid for by the Merage family, they take courses on film history and filmmaking techniques, all while producing their own independent short films.