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ORLANDO-Jeno F. Paulucci, the visionary who saw offices, homes and apartments when he gazed at a field of cattle grazing on 3,000 acres 25 miles north of Downtown Orlando 30 years ago, is Entrepreneur of the Year in the United States.

Paulucci developed the 3,000 acres into Heathrow, FL: an affluent suburban community boasting high-end commercial, industrial and residential properties.

The developer and frozen food magnate won the top honors this week over the 4,400 entries in the annual competition, sponsored by New York-based Ernst & Young, an international CPA firm in Palm Springs, CA.

Paulucci advanced to the national competition after being named Florida’s 2002 Master Entrepreneur of the Year in a June awards ceremony in Orlando. He vies for international entrepreneur honors in Monte Carlo next year.

Paulucci couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline at either his Sanford, FL or Duluth, MN offices. But friends and former real estate associates tell GlobeSt.com the 84-year-old Paulucci remains active in real estate and frozen food production.

“He still owns considerable land in the metro Orlando area and although his main interest in the last few years has been in the food line, he keeps daily tabs on the real estate markets, locally and nationally,” a former associate tells GlobeSt.com.

Paulucci’s frozen food firms produce the Michelina and Budget Gourmet line. He attracted international media attention in the 1960s when he sold his Chun King Corp. to R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Inc. for $63 million cash and became the first chairman of RJR Foods Inc. The firm later became RJR-Nabisco Corp.

Paulucci borrowed $2,500 from a friend to start Chun King in the 1946. After the sale of the company, the developer gave $2 million tax-free to the employees who helped him create and build the firm.

Paulucci attracted more media attention in July of this year when he took out a full-page advertisement in the Washington Times. He called on President Bush to order the Justice Department to crack down on corporate chieftains involved in dishonest business practices.

“You can call it ‘cooking the books,’ or you can call it ‘improper accounting,’ but there are really no other words except ‘stealing’ and ‘larceny,” Paulucci wrote Bush in an open letter.

Born in Aurora, MN, Paulucci studied law at Hibbing Junior College in Hibbing, MN before dropping out to pursue a business career that has made him a multi-millionaire.

He has been named Outstanding Italian American of Year several times. He received the Gold Medal of the Italian American Society in 1965; the UNICO National Rizzuto Gold Medal in 1968; and an Ellis Island (Liberty Island) Congressional Medal of Honor in 1990.

He was enrolled in the International Registry of Chivalry, Rome, in 1979 and received the Order of Merit, the highest civilian award conferred by Italy in 1980. The National Order, Sons of Italy in America, gave him a Guglielmo Marconi Award in 1995.

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