Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame to induct five entrepreneurs

Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 2.43.54 PMThe sixth annual Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be in Louisville this year on Wednesday, Nov. 18, at the Mellwood Arts Center. The Hall of Fame, which is located in Lexington, will induct five successful entrepreneurs and also acknowledge two emerging ones. 

This year’s Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame inductees are (descriptions provided by Awesome Inc.):

  • Brad Kelley: 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: In 1870, George Garvin Brown founded what would become Brown-Forman. Brown-Forman is traded on the NYSE with a current market cap of $23.45 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: In 1969, 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 Thornton: James H. Thornton is founder and chair of Thornton Oil Corp., now Thornton’s Inc. As of 2013, Thorntons had over 177 gasoline and convenience stores in six states: Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Thorntons Inc., headquartered in Louisville, ranks number 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 is the CEO of Greer Companies, a  family-owned, hospitality and commercial real estate development company headquartered in the heart Kentucky.   Greer employs over 6,500 team members and generates over $200 million in annual sales.  It’s Mint Julep Restaurant division includes independent concepts – Coba Cocina, Cobar Cantina, and Cocoh! Confectioner – in Lexington, KY, as well as 44 Cheddar’s Restaurants across 7 states.  Cheddar’s continues to rank at the top of numerous full service restaurant rankings, including being named the Top Overall Restaurant in the Nation by Zagat in 2012.  Greer is an owner / operator of Marriott, Hilton and the Intercontinental Hotels and has built hundreds of residential, office and commercial properties over the last 45 years, many of which it still owns and operates today.

Emerging Entrepreneurs:

  • Alex Frommeyer: Beam Dental
  • Peter Tower: Magnolia Photo Booth Co.

Who would you like to see included among next year’s inductees? Mention them in the comments and then go and nominate them for next year here.

It’s worth noting there is only one woman in the Hall of Fame — iPay Technologies’ Dana Bowers — and there are 29 men. There also is only one person of color. Several women are noted as Emerging Entrepreneurs.

Seating for the Kentucky Entrepreneur Hall of Fame ceremony is available for $75 per person. Reservations are required. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Updated 10:41 a.m. due to inaccuracies in the press release.