How Much Colonel Sanders Was Worth When He Died

If you've never looked into the real-life story of Colonel Sanders, the original founder and owner of KFC, then it's easy to make believe a happy story for the seemingly lovable, white-bearded mascot. While the true tragic story involved a lot of failure as a businessman, he definitely knew how to cook chicken that so many love today. From the headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky and beyond, KFC has become an international success.

To clear up the easiest misconceptions surrounding Colonel Harland Sanders, he wasn't a military colonel — or even from Kentucky at all. Born in Henryville, Indiana, his father died when he was just 6 years old, leaving him to care for his younger siblings. Through the years he worked as a farmer, a streetcar conductor, and an insurance salesman (via Biography). By the time Sanders was 40, he had moved to Corbin, Kentucky where he owned a small gas station that expanded into Sanders Cafe where he cooked and sold fried chicken (via Entrepreneur).

Nine years after opening his cafe, the chicken became so well-known that Governor Ruby Laffoon named Sanders a Kentucky Colonel in 1935. For those who are unfamiliar, Kentucky Colonel is a title of honor that is often awarded to notable residents by the state. In 1952, Colonel Sanders began franchising his restaurant and had more than 600 locations by 1964.

Colonel Sanders's worth at the end of his life

Colonel Sanders sold the business in 1964 for $2 million and continued to collect a salary for his work as the face of the brand. The company went public two years later and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange by 1969. In 1971, Heublein Inc. acquired KFC for $285 million. The next time it was sold, KFC went for roughly $840 million in 1984 to PepsiCo Inc.

By the time Colonel Sanders died in 1980, he was worth just $3.5 million (via CelebrityNetWorth). Though he tried to sue for $122 million after KFC sold to Heublein Inc. in 1971, he was unsuccessful and settled out of court for just $1 million. Today, the KFC brand is worth roughly $8.5 billion and sees $26.2 billion in sales as one of the world's top 100 most valuable brands (via Forbes). If you're wondering how much it costs to open a franchise location, you need at least $1.4 million to invest, so crunch some numbers before you dive into fast food for the finger-lickin' good profits.