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Inside Menards, the Billionaire-Owned Midwest Home Improvement Chain

As the founder of home-improvement retailer Menards, John Menard Jr. is Wisconsin’s richest billionaire with a net worth of $22.9 billion.

John Menard Jr.

John Menard Jr. (left) congratulates IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud on his victory at the 2016 Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Khris Hale/Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

Menard Jr. is the 87th richest person in the world, Forbes reported.

After spending a summer constructing pole buildings to put himself through college at the University of Wisconsin—Eau Claire, he started a construction company in 1958, according to Menards’ official website. That led him to the building-materials business, and he opened the first Menards retail location in 1964.

Now with over 300 locations across 15 Midwestern states, the chain sells a wide variety of home-improvement tools and building materials as well as appliances, lighting, furniture, and groceries.

Menard Jr. is a controversial figure known for his frugality and iron-handed management style. A 2007 Milwaukee magazine profile reported that managers are fined $100 for every minute a store opens late, and Forbes reports that even top executives are still required to clock in.

In 1997, Menard Jr. was fined over $1.5 million and pleaded no contest to charges regarding illegal hazardous waste disposal. Prosecutors alleged he used his personal pickup truck to take dangerous chemicals from the business to deposit them in his household trash, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. Menards paid another $2 million in 2005 for violating state water-pollution laws in Wisconsin.

His personal conduct has also come under scrutiny with a 2013 lawsuit alleging he pressured the wife of one of his business partners to have sex with him and fired her husband when she refused. Menard Jr. denied any inappropriate conduct, his attorney told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Menard Jr. is also an avid race-car enthusiast, sponsoring Menards race cars at NASCAR and IndyCar events.