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Bill Foley is Back

Bill Foley is Back

Seventy-five-year-old Bill Foley, who is leading the takeover bid for Irvine’s CoreLogic Inc., made a name for himself in Orange County business circles in the 1980s and 1990s.

In 1984, Foley gained control of Fidelity National Title Insurance Co. of California, which can trace its roots to 1848. He based the company in Irvine where it competed against what’s now Santa Ana-based First American Financial Corp. (NYSE: FAF).

Foley also tried his hand at fast food. Carl Karcher, founder of Carl’s Jr., asked Foley for help and he became a part owner and in 1994, CEO of CKE Restaurants Inc., which then was based in Anaheim.

In the 1990s, Foley owned about 18% of Cruttenden Roth Inc., which was the predecessor of Newport Beach’s Roth Capital.

“Bill has an amazing ability to multitask,” Roth chairman and CEO Byron Roth told the Business Journal. “Just don’t underestimate his ability to juggle a lot of balls. I admire it. I’ve watched it.”

Foley eventually moved Fidelity and CKE to Santa Barbara. Fidelity lasted about three years before decamping to Jacksonville, Fla., citing room to grow and customer proximity. Foley also said Jacksonville’s cost of living was half that of Santa Barbara’s.

Foley eventually relinquished the Fidelity CEO role in 2007 while staying on as chairman.

Foley resigned as CKE chairman in 2005; the company eventually also departed the Santa Barbara area, moving to the “more business friendly” city of Nashville, Tenn. according to the Santa Barbara Independent.

In 1996, Foley took over Micro General, a sleepy little Santa Ana company with $2 million in annual sales of postage meters, postal scales and shipping systems. He turned it into his play on the internet, ditched the postage meters part of the business and by 2000, Micro General’s revenue was close to $100 million annually. He started a new company, Escrow.com. In 2002, a Fidelity unit bought Micro General for $261 million.

Foley, who serves as chairman of The Dun & Bradstreet Corp. is also owner of the Vegas Golden Knights, a National Hockey League team.

When Foley was an investor in Roth’s company, “His team was very, very good,” Roth said.

“We were a small investment for him. It was amazing how well informed he was.”

Roth declined to comment on the bid for CoreLogic, saying he wasn’t knowledgeable about the offer.

Roth did say, “I wouldn’t bet against Bill on anything.”

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Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan
Peter J. Brennan has been a journalist for 40 years. He spent a decade in Latin America covering wars, narcotic traffickers, earthquakes, and business. His resume includes 15 years at Bloomberg News where his headlines and articles sometimes moved the market caps of companies he covered by hundreds of millions of dollars. His articles have been published worldwide, including the New York Times and the Washington Post; he's appeared on CNN, CBC, BBC, and Bloomberg TV. He was awarded a Kiplinger Fellowship at The Ohio State University.
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