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Verne Winchell

Verne Winchell was an American businessman and founder of Winchell's Donut Houses, which he built into a chain of nearly 1,000 shops.

Biographical fast facts

Date and place of birth: October 30, 1915, Bloomington, Illinois, U.S.A.*

Date, place and cause of death: November 26, 2002, at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.A. (Cardiac arrest)


Verne Winchell's business career began when he opened Winchell Music, a coin-operated jukebox and game business (1938-45). Winchell Motors followed (1945-48). His doughnut empire began in 1948, with a single shop in Temple City, California. He built Winchell's Donut House into a chain of nearly 1,000 shops.

Verne Winchell merged his Winchell's Donut Houses with Denny's in the late '60s, and he went on to serve as President and Chairman of the board of Denny's Restaurants (1970-1980). It wasn't until 1984, that Winchell left the doughnut and restaurant business, when he sold his stock in Denny's for a reported $600 million.

Verne Winchell was also a leading racehorse owner and breeder who owned more than 40 stakes winners. He had three horses race in the Kentucky Derby over the years. Classic Go Go, who finished fourth in the 1981 Kentucky Derby, Sea Cadet, who finished eighth in 1991, (Winchell paid just $2,800 for Sea Cadet in 1989, yet went on to win more than $1.7 million during the 1990s) and Valiant Nature, who finished 13th in 1994. Other racehorses he owned and raced include, Donut King, Mr. Tower, Mr. America, Mr. Eiffel, Ancient Mariner, Mira Femme, Ronnie's Baby (Ronnie's Baby, was bred by President Ronald Reagan and purchased from Desi Arnaz), Tight Spot, On Target, Call Now, Amerique, Future Quest, and Olympio. The Arlington Million, Del Mar Futurity, Longacres Mile, Champagne Stakes, Hollywood Futurity, Meadowlands Cup and Arkansas Derby, are but a few of the races won by his horses. He bred more than 60 stakes winners at his 320-acre Oakwind Farm, near Lexington, Kentucky.

When he died in 2002, he was survived by his wife of 37 years, Joan, his daughters, Christina Winchell and Linda Schumacher, and sons, Ronald Winchell and Richard Winchell.

Error correction or clarification

* Verne Winchell's birthplace is erroneously reported as "Bloomington, Indiana," by some sources. As stated above, he was born in Bloomington, Illinois.

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