John Y. Brown Jr., a born salesman who grew to become a multimillionaire by reworking Kentucky Fried Hen into a world model after which bought himself to voters in a six-week TV blitz to turn into Kentucky’s governor, serving one time period, died on Tuesday in Lexington, Ky. He was 88.
His household stated the dying, in a hospital, was brought on by problems of Covid-19.
Mr. Brown, a 30-year-old lawyer on the time, and a fellow investor purchased Kentucky Fried Hen from its founder, Harlan Sanders, for $2 million in 1964 (about $19.3 million immediately). Over the following seven years he reworked a nationwide string of about 600 eating places into one of many world largest fast-food chains, with some 3,000 red-and-white-striped takeout shops.
He bought the enterprise in 1971 to Heublein Inc., the distiller, for a private revenue estimated at greater than $30 million (about $225 million immediately).
A prodigious Democratic fund-raiser, Mr. Brown, a son of a former Kentucky congressman and state legislator, initially flirted with a political profession, contemplating a run for the USA Senate earlier than deciding in opposition to it on the final minute after which gauging a bid for governor in 1975 earlier than once more declining to affix the race.
In 1979, nonetheless, just lately wed to Phyllis George, a pioneering sportscaster and former Miss America, Mr. Brown plunged right into a six-week tv marketing campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and defeated a number of candidates by a plurality of slightly below 30 %. He then simply defeated Louie B. Nunn, a former Republican governor, that November.
Hobbled by a recession, Mr. Brown compiled a blended document because the state’s chief govt Casting himself as “the maker of coverage and supervisor of funds,” he sought to draw funding by selling “Kentucky & Co.” as “the state that’s run like a enterprise.” However to maintain the state solvent, he needed to shrink the federal government payroll by 1000’s of workers whereas making an attempt to keep away from main reductions in companies.
“He was a sound steward of the commonwealth’s sources, however he was not a frontrunner who proposed new packages in areas corresponding to training or human sources,” Mary Ok. Bonsteel Tachau and Bruce L. McClure wrote in “Kentucky’s Governors” (1985).
After finishing his time period in December 1983, Mr. Brown entered Kentucky’s 1984 Democratic major for a U.S. Senate seat however withdrew six weeks later, citing the lingering results of life-threatening heart-bypass surgical procedure he had undergone in his final yr in workplace as governor. In 1987, he sought the gubernatorial nomination once more however got here in second within the Democratic major. By then, his luster as a possible nationwide candidate had pale.
His profession as an investor had continued after his buy of Kentucky Fried Hen. In 1969, he purchased a controlling curiosity within the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Affiliation. The group gained the league championship in 1975 however folded when the A.B.A. merged with the Nationwide Basketball Affiliation the following yr. Mr. Brown then purchased a half curiosity within the Buffalo Braves of the N.B.A., a former growth group.
However when he was blocked from transferring the Braves to Louisville, Ky., Mr. Brown and a companion made a take care of the Boston Celtics possession to swap the groups. (The brand new homeowners quickly moved the Braves to San Diego and later Los Angeles because the Clippers.) In Boston, Mr. Brown alienated loyalists by buying and selling away widespread gamers earlier than promoting the group in 1979.
He additionally based a roasted-chicken restaurant chain with the nation music star Kenny Rogers, calling it Kenny Rogers Roasters. It grew to 350 shops, however competitors from Kentucky Fried Hen, by then often called KFC, and the Boston Hen chain (later often called Boston Market) drove it into chapter 11 in 1998. (It was later purchased by Nathan’s Well-known.)
John Younger Brown Jr. was born in Lexington on Dec. 28, 1933. John Sr. was a trial lawyer who served one time period within the U.S. Home of Representatives within the mid-Nineteen Thirties and was a member of the Kentucky Home of Representatives for a number of a long time. He misplaced perennial races for governor and the U.S. Senate — losses that haunted his son and which John Jr. later blamed on machine politicians whose help his father had spurned. His mom was Dorothy (Inman) Brown.
He earned a bachelor’s diploma in 1957 and a regulation diploma in 1960, each from the College of Kentucky, and served within the Military Reserve from 1959 to 1965.
Entrepreneurial by intuition, in highschool Mr. Brown had made as much as $1,000 a month in commissions in a summer time job peddling vacuum cleaners, and as a lot as $25,000 a yr promoting the Encyclopaedia Britannica throughout regulation college.
He was additionally a high-stakes gambler, a behavior that rivals would wield in opposition to him. He was investigated for failing to make a compulsory report of a $1.3 million money withdrawal from one among his financial institution accounts, though he was by no means charged with wrongdoing.
Mr. Brown’s first marriage, to Eleanor Durall, who was often called Ellie, led to divorce. In 1973, named chairwoman of the Kentucky Colonels after she purchased a majority of the group’s inventory, she grew to become the primary lady to go a serious skilled basketball group.
His marriage to Ms. George, in 1979, additionally led to divorce, in 1998. She died of a uncommon blood most cancers in 2020 at 70 after an extended profession as a CBS sportscaster, wherein she shattered a barrier in 1975 by becoming a member of the all-male forged of this system “The NFL At present.”
His third marriage, to Jill Louise Roach, a former Mrs. Kentucky, led to divorce in 2003.
Mr. Brown is survived by three kids from his first marriage, Sissy Brown, Sandra Brown Steier and John Y. Brown III, who served as Kentucky’s secretary of state within the late Nineteen Nineties and early 2000s; and two kids from his marriage to Ms. George, Lincoln Tyler George Brown and Pamela Brown, a senior Washington correspondent and weekend anchor for CNN.