It's nothing new for celebrities to have their name and their hands in a variety of different businesses. Some own liquor brands, others like to dive into fashion, and many open their own restaurants. While the celebrity may be famous and successful, it doesn't mean the new business will be. One prime example is none other than the debacle, Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken, a fast food fried chicken restaurant that was created to compete against KFC.
What Happened to Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken?
Born Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, known by her stage name Minnie Pearl, was an American comedian who appeared at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee for more than 50 years. Later on she gained fame on the hit television show, Hee Haw. Her celebrity status was booming, and in the late 1960s, entrepreneur John Jay Hooker and his brother Henry Hooker persuaded Minnie and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson to lend their name to a fried chicken chain that would rival Kentucky Fried Chicken. The two agreed, and soon the public stock of the restaurant chain was worth worth $64 million. However there were a few problems.
Unlike KFC, which was molded and cared for under the watchful eye of Colonel Sanders, Minnie Pearl's Fried Chicken was built on an idea and money. There was no chicken recipe in this chicken business. Instead the brothers focused on franchising the idea before even opening up a store. Every store had their own menu and way of cooking chicken.
You Can't Cook Your Chicken Before it Hatches
Soon the cost of franchises and the company's method of reporting franchise fees in its income statement came under scrutiny of the Securities and Exchange Commission, a practice Henry Hooker would defend.
By 1968 the brothers had sold the rights to almost 300 franchised stores and had decided to go public. Stock rose from $20 to $40.50 a share, even though there were only 5 restaurants in operation. Not soon after the brothers announced a second chain named after black gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Before the news had time to settle they announced they were starting a third chain called Minnie Pearl's Roast Beef. The stock price rose to $56 a share and by the end of 1968, Minnie Pearl's still had fewer than 40 restaurants open, with none of them making a profit.
According to Nashville Scene, the company stated it had lost $5.5 million during the first half of 1969. When the SEC investigated, it noted that the company had lost a whopping $31 million in 1969. The stock fell to a measly 44 cents.
Minnie Pearl was embarrassed to have her name attached to the failure, however she did come out making a profit and selling her stock before the losses started racking up.