Former media executive creates donkey sanctuary in Northern California

The pandemic caused many people to reevaluate their careers — including a former media executive, who said goodbye to his high-powered role and unexpectedly found himself surrounded by donkeys. Ron King started a nonprofit on a 75-acre ranch dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of donkeys in Northern California.

It's a far cry from his pre-pandemic life: attired in Gucci, shuttling between New York and Los Angeles as a senior vice president for Time Inc. He managed sales and marketing for well-known brands.

But in 2018, the sale of Time Inc. led to the elimination of King's position. He freelanced afterwards, but once COVID-19 hit, the work dried up and the despair set in.

Then came a call from an old friend, prominent pop art dealer Phil Selway — who hired King to move to his ranch and sell it because it wasn't being used.

"I thought it would be a win-win. He could help me tremendously, and it would help him, give him another project," Selway said.

King took the job and realized he found a new sense of calm on the property.

"My head is always like a snow globe that's being shook. It never stops. That sense of sort of chaos in my head was just normal for me. When the snow globe stops after 20 years, you feel that," King said.

Serenity then met serendipity. King discovered a story about the plight of donkeys, known historically as strong pack animals capable of hauling goods. But once they've outlived their usefulness, donkeys, which can live around 30 years, are sold at auction, slaughtered and skinned for their hides to be used in a traditional Chinese medicine.

"They don't have any advocates, they don't win races, they don't feed a food chain. And I thought I need to help donkeys," King said. "So I said, 'Phil I have an idea I wanna run by you. I want you to take it off the market, not sell it, and let me turn this into a donkey sanctuary.'"

"The first thing I thought when Ron was giving his presentation was that he was crazy and I would be crazy to go along with this," Selway said. "It's absolutely blown me away and I could not be happier."

Donations support their cause. Every donkey on the ranch, 97 of them, would have been killed.

King said he helps to rebuild the donkey's strength and trust so they're ready for adoption. So far, he's found homes for 30 donkeys.