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Dole owner puts $ where mouths are

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

In the middle of negotiations over a demolition job last year, the owner of Dole Food Co. suddenly chewed out his adversary, the 285-pound founder of a wrecking company.

“Mr. Griffin,” the 150-pound, 83- year-old David Murdock told the man, “you’re fat and you’re going to die. You aren’t going to live the 18 months to finish this project, and your son is going to have to buy a bigger casket to bury you.”

Murdock then offered to add $100,000 to the deal if D.H. Griffin would lose 60 pounds over the coming year. After some back and forth, the two settled on 30 pounds.

This summer, Griffin stepped on the scale to prove he’d lost 31 pounds.

It was a win for both men. Having made billions in real estate and other investments, Murdock now pursues a blend of business and health. He’s not shy about evangelizing that the secret to longevity lies in eating your fruits and veggies, backing up his talk by using more than $1 billion of his own cash to bankroll healthful ventures.

In North Carolina, he’s building a biotech research center to study nutrition’s role in health. In California, he’s opening a combo resort/ conference center/nutrition-counseling school next month: an idea so attractive that health insurer WellPoint is taking a 15 percent stake in it.

Murdock plans a second “wellbeing institute” in Hawaii on the island of Lanai, most of which he owns.

He explains that he’s spending his money “on a subject that I am rabidly interested in” because of his wife’s death in 1985 from cancer. The pair had eaten steak and other fatty foods for years, and Murdock believes that their diet killed her. After Gabrielle died, Murdock stopped eating meat and ice cream.

In the meantime, he is enjoying his health enterprises, which he hopes will turn a profit someday.

Not bad for a poor boy from Ohio who dropped out of school after failing ninth grade.

Business lesson: Work on something you believe in. It will put wind under your wings.

—Adapted from “Dole Food Owner Pours His Fortune Into Health Ventures,” Rhonda Rundle, The Wall Street Journal.

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