A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Five of Kentucky’s most successful entrepreneurs to be celebrated with induction into hall of fame

The Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame – which celebrates Kentucky’s most successful entrepreneurs and encourages others to pursue similar endeavors – will honor this year’s inductees on Nov. 18 in Louisville. The inductees include:

Brad Kelley

Brad Kelley

Brad Kelley, Commonwealth Brands tobacco (sold the company in 2001 to Houchens Industries for US$1 billion), Center for Innovation and Technology business park, NC2 Media – owner of lonely planet, Calumet Farm

Kelley is the fourth-largest landowner in the U.S., with an estimated worth of $1.9 billion in 2014. He founded the Commonwealth Brands tobacco company in 1991 and sold the company in 2001 to Houchens Industries for $1 billion. As of 2014, Kelley’s business interests include Calumet Farm, NC2 Media (Lonely Planet) and the Center for Innovation and Technology business park.

George Garvin Brown

George Garvin Brown

George Garvin Brown – Brown-Forman

In 1870 George Garvin Brown founded what would become Brown-Forman. Brown-Forman is traded on the NYSE with a current market cap of $23.5 billion. Today Brown-Forman employs more than 4,000 people worldwide with about 1,000 located in Louisville. Brown-Forman is one of the largest American-owned spirits and wine companies among the top 10 largest global spirits companies to sell its brands in countries around the world and has offices in cities across the globe. In all, Brown-Forman has more than 25 brands in its portfolio of wines and spirits.

James Patterson

James Patterson

James Patterson – Long John Silvers

In 1969, James Patterson became the first president of Long John Silver’s, a carry-out fish restaurant. Today, the popular chain has 1,200 stores nationwide. After stepping down from Long John Silver’s and being awarded $20 million, he became a Wendy’s franchisee and formed Western Restaurants Inc., which operated 47 Wendy’s. Throughout the 1980s, Patterson founded or was instrumental in starting several businesses, including Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurants; AmeriCall and First Phone, which merged into what is now WorldCom; Rally’s, a hamburger drive-thru restaurant chain; and Gulfstream petroleum, an oil and gas exploration company.

James Thorton

James H. Thornton

James H. Thornton, Thornton Oil Inc., now Thorntons Inc.

James H. Thornton is founder and chair of Thornton Oil Inc., now Thorntons Inc. As of 2013 Thorntons had over 177 gasoline/convenience stores including one travel plaza, eight car washes in six states: Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Thorntons Inc., headquartered in Louisville, ranks No. 250 among Forbes magazine’s 500 largest privately held companies and ranks as one of Kentucky’s largest privately held companies with over $2.3 billion in annual revenue.

Phil Greer, Greer Companies; Cheddar’s

Phil Greer

Phil Greer

Phil Greer and the Greer Companies have a long history of residential, industrial, office and commercial real estate development. Some of these developments include Republic Bank, Fifth Third, and a franchise of casual dining and hotel chains, including Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, Marriott and Hilton Hotels. As of 2014 the company has 37 Cheddar’s in seven states and 7,400-plus employees, with $4 million in annual sales for each location. They have not raised prices in five years, yet continues to generate significantly more revenue than similar restaurant franchies.

Emerging entrepreneurs:

Alex Frommeyer, Beam Dental, and Peter Tower, Magnolia Photo Booth Co.

The dinner will be at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in Louisville at Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center, located at 1860 Mellwood Avenue. Seating for the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame ceremony is available for $75 per person. Reservations are required. Sponsorships are also available. To reserve a seat, click here.

From Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame

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