When Julio Ramirez was seven years old, his parents left their home in Cuba and emigrated to America. The year was 1961 and Fidel Castro had taken control of the island nation. Julio’s father was a college-educated civil engineer, but he and his wife were prohibited from taking any earthly possessions with them when they left Havana to stay with relatives in Atlanta.
The Ramirez family prospered in Atlanta, and by the time Julio entered high school at St. Pius the Tenth he and his parents had become naturalized U.S. citizens. Julio’s father resumed his work as a civil engineer, and his mother was a secretary at C&S Bank in downtown Atlanta. Julio traversed those same streets during his undergraduate days at Georgia State, where he earned a business degree and was president of the freshman class.
“I have fond memories of my childhood in Cuba,” says Julio. “But I will always be grateful that my parents had the courage to come to America when Cuba went Communist. I don’t know many places in the world where a person like me—who didn’t speak a word of English when he came here—could become an executive vice president for a major American corporation doing business in more than 75 countries.”
Julio’s résumé includes stints as an account executive for Xerox and a sales manager for AT&T Information Systems. But he found his niche at Burger King, where he rose to executive vice president for global operations—one of 10 different positions he held during a 26-year career at the Miami-based company. Julio’s stature at Burger King is evidenced by the fact that he was able to climb the corporate ladder through five ownership changes before retiring in 2010.
Julio credits his late father with convincing him to get an MBA—and his long-time friend and Terry College alum Jack Harney with convincing him to get it at Terry in 1977. Julio also credits his father with giving him the best piece of advice he ever received.
“My father said it would be important for me to continue improving my Spanish-speaking and writing skills—and he was right,” says Julio. “Being fluent in Spanish was one of several critical factors that enabled me to foster tremendous growth for Burger King in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America.”
As president of Burger King Latin America, Julio and his team increased the number of franchise restaurants in Mexico from 20 to more than 350. He also introduced the Burger King brand to Brazil, where Burger King now has nearly 200 restaurants.
Julio holds the distinction of being the longest-serving senior executive in the history of the Burger King Corporation—during which time he introduced Burger King to 10 countries.
And he is uniquely qualified to run his latest international venture, JEM Consulting, a restaurant, retail, and franchising business that includes part ownership in Giardino Gourmet Salads. Julio is also doing consulting for 100 Montaditos, a unique Spanish restaurant-brewery concept, based in Madrid, which is rapidly expanding to Mexico, Florida, and Washington, D.C.
Julio functioned as an international ambassador for Burger King with responsibility for operations, supply chain, and franchisee relations from the Far East to Europe and South America. And his companion on many of those business trips was his wife, Myriam, who functioned as an unofficial ambassador for the company while, at the same time, managing the Ramirezes’ home and family. Julio and Myriam have been married 31 years and they have raised three lovely daughters. Team Julio also includes his wife’s parents, Mitch and Myriam Alvarez, who have been important advisers to Julio in the absence of his parents, who have passed away.
Nominator Bill Griffin notes that Julio is involved in numerous philanthropic organizations in the Miami area, including the Dade County United Way, the Alexis de Tocqueville Society, the Mercy Hospital Foundation, and the prestigious Orange Bowl Committee.
“Julio has also been a Terry Third Thursday lecturer,” says Bill, “and he recently agreed to serve on the Terry Dean’s Advisory Council.”
Reflecting on a business career that has already had its share of highs, Julio envisions an even brighter future ahead. “I’m good at building consensus, I’m a good communicator—in both English and in Spanish!—and one day I would love to run a restaurant company interested in expansion abroad.”