Denver, CO

The 4th richest person in Denver, Colorado

Luay Rahil
Photo: Canva
"Your employees have got to know you are not a phony. They have got to believe in you." - James Leprino.

James Leprino owns Leprino Foods Company, the largest mozzarella cheese manufacturer in the United States, with more than $3.5 billion in estimated annual sales.

His focus on building great people who can help him build a successful company made him one of the wealthiest people in the country. Forbes estimates his wealth to exceed $3.3 billion, making him the 4th richest person in Denver, Colorado.

Who is James Leprino?

James Leprino is an American business executive and chairman of the world's largest mozzarella cheese manufacturer, Leprino Foods.

Leprino Foods is an American company founded in 1950 and is still run by the Leprino family. It is headquartered in Denver, Colorado, and is known for producing cheese, lactose, whey protein, and sweet whey.

A True American Success Story

James Leprino is the youngest of five children of Mike Leprino Sr., who immigrated from Italy in 1914, aged 16, and settled in Denver. As soon as Mike Leprino Sr. arrived in Denver, he worked as a farmworker before opening a grocery store called Leprino market in Denver's Little Italy in 1950. His store sold some of the produce he grew. He later added fresh ricotta, mozzarella balls, and ravioli to his store.

After James Leprino graduated from high school in 1956, he worked with his father full-time at his market. James noticed that Pizzerias in Denver were buying 5,000 pounds of cheese a week, so he convinced his father to focus on producing more cheese and selling it to pizza stores. As a result, when the Leprino market closed in 1958, the Leprino Foods cheese empire was born.

James Leprino never graduated college, but he could take advantage of a great market opportunity by hiring smart people to produce cheese pizza on a large scale.

James Leprino expanded the company internationally.

His focus on building a company culture that encourages a shared ownership mentality to the best food company in the world helped him achieve great milestones quickly. For example:

  1. Leprino expanded its operation internationally by shipping whey protein to Japan in 1978.
  2. One year later, he changed the company name from Leprino to Leprino Foods Company to reflect the company's broader product line.
  3. In 1989, the company invented a scientific method to transform fresh milk into cheese in four hours.
  4. In 1992, Leprino Foods Company became the #1 pizza cheese supplier in the United States.
  5. By 2017, the company had a presence in Europe, Latin America, and the Asia Pacific.

The company maintains a low profile, but it dominates the mozzarella world. Its clients include Domino's, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Lean Cuisine, Stouffers, and Hot Pockets.

James Leprino is not shy about supporting the Republican party.

Since 1990, Leprino has donated $1,521,894 to individual political campaigns and political committees, according to the campaign-finance data-crunching website. The company also has spent $760,000 on lobbying since 1998.

If you had Leprino's money, what causes would you support?

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