The Founder is a documentary style movie about the beginnings of McDonald's and ultimately it focuses on Ray Croc as the protagonist of the movie. It follows Ray Croc personally through his life, his struggles as a traveling salesman and his dreams of one day making it big. Ray is already 52 years old when he joins the McDonald's company in California and teams up with the two brothers running it. He has visions of turning it into a worldwide franchise empire, thanks to the unique "fast food" system that the brothers created which was unheard of at the time. A time when your food given to you (at reasonable quality) at the counter just seconds after you ordered it was a novel concept.
The movie does a fairly accurate job of representing the situation, I would say, however what I've found interesting is that a lot of people who've seen the movie tend to see Ray as the bad guy. They see Ray as this shady sales guy who was old and haggard and was desperate for success and he found a successful company whom he managed to convince to join and run with them and be in control of national operations. He is often seen as a leech - someone who stole McDonald's off of the original owners and profited for himself. However, I see it quite differently.
Ray created McDonald's as we know it
Before Ray came along, McDonald's was operating in one location in California and was a very popular fast-food business. Ray however, was the person that turned McDonald's into what we know it as today, the success story that it now is. He was the person who had the vision of the "golden arches" in every city and town across the United States and he was the one risking all of his money to make it happen. He was the one traveling around the country, desperately pitching the concept to investors and bankers. Although he struggled at first to maintain consistency between the franchises, he was able to discover what he was missing - good regional managers and franchise operators - and fix the quality control across all of the franchises and maintain the consistent fast food formula that the brothers created. This was something the brothers had tried in the past, however they had failed to do so and they gave up on the concept entirely, until Ray came along and convinced them to try it again.
Arguably, Ray was the person that took McDonald's to the international level. The concept of an "idea" being stolen is really well, just silly. The brothers had a great concept and they executed on it very well in one location. Ray came along, took that concept, worked hard and managed to execute it nation-wide in a way they had never been able to. Ray is the reason McDonald's became the massive company it is today and it would never have been that way without him, simple as that.
The brothers got well compensated
In 1961, Ray bought McDonald's from the brothers for $2.7 million. After taxes, this amounted to around $1 million for each of the brothers. It doesn't sound like a lot for the people who "invented" McDonald's, but that's really the problem I was addressing earlier in the post. While they "invented" a lot of the key concepts behind the business, they failed to bring it to the national level like Ray did.
Ultimately, $1 million after taxes is a fairly significant reward in 1961 for the brothers for what they actually did accomplish, which was one successful McDonald's restaurant in California with a uniquely fast cooking system that they had "invented". Could it be worth more than that? Maybe. However, I would argue that they were actually well compensated for their contribution to McDonald's as we know it today.
Without Ray Croc, the company simply wouldn't be what it is.