Episode 94. John Y. Brown Jr. – 1979-1983 Governor of Kentucky & Kentucky Fried Chicken Entrepreneur (1933-2022)
John Y. Brown, Jr. credits his father as the prime motivator and confidence-builder in his life, driving his later successes.
John began working at age 16 selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias door to door. He made his way to the University of Kentucky, where he earned a Juris Doctor.
In 1962, he and his partner purchased Kentucky Fried Chicken from its founder, Colonel Sanders, for $2 million. In 1971, after building 3,500 KFC’s worldwide and making Colonel Sanders one of the world’s most recognized brands, Brown sold KFC for $285 million. After 1971 he became president of the American Basketball Association, created 40 small, fast food outlets named Ollie’s Trolley, and purchased three professional basketball teams: the Kentucky Colonels, the Buffalo Braves the Boston Celtics.
In 1978 he built the Pamela Brown Auditorium, located in Louisville’s Actors Theatre, and contributed a $1 million matching gift to build the downtown YMCA.
In 1979, John was elected as Kentucky’s 55th governor. After his run with politics, John continued pursuing many new restaurant concepts. He later ran for several public offices, created several new companies, and contributed to building the Muhammad Ali Center.
In 2009, Harvard Business School named John one of the Great American Business Leaders of the 20th Century.