Everything But the Idea

The president of General Electric in the 1950s was asked why GE hadn’t actually invented television. Holding the patent on TV sets would have been an endless moneymaker. “We had everything but the idea,” he said ruefully. Apocryphal, maybe, but it’s one of my favorite business stories. And it explains why “The Founder,” the didactic biopic starring Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc of McDonald’s fame, manages to be entertaining. The McDonald brothers came up with the Speedee System prototype, but Kroc had the idea to run with it—to turn McD’s into a brand. He emerges as a luridly energetic and somewhat loathesome man, ultimately cheating the brothers not just out of a promised one percent of profits but out of their own name. If you believe, as I do, that the founder’s DNA persists in a company’s history, this movieburger provides fast food for thought.