Col. Sanders' white suit auctioned for nearly $22,000

KFC's founder is a cultural icon in Japan, which is one reason why the chain's Japanese chief wanted the outfit.

By Bruce Kennedy Jun 25, 2013 4:22PM

Masao Quick: What American restaurateur and fast-food icon has near-mythic status in Japan?

Ten points if you said Col. Harland Sanders.

Images of the founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken can be found in many Asian countries. KFC, now part of Yum Brands (YUM), is the largest fast-food chain in China with more than 4,200 restaurants in 850 Chinese cities. And in Japan the Colonel is larger than life, with his statue guarding nearly every KFC entrance.

"Every child in Japan knows Colonel Sanders' face and his uniform," Masao "Charlie" Watanabe (pictured), president and CEO of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan, told The Associated Press through a translator.

Over the weekend, Watanabe attended an auction in Dallas and placed the winning bid  of $21,510 for one of Sanders' trademark white suits. He also purchased some of Sanders' personal effects at the auction, including his 1973 Kentucky driver's license. Watanabe plans to display the white suit at a Tokyo KFC.

KFC came to Japan in the 1970s and, thanks to a hugely popular Christmas and New Year seasonal ad campaign that captured the national imagination, is now part of the fast-food landscape there with nearly 1,200 restaurants.

Japan even has "The Curse of the Colonel" -- some bad mojo the KFC founder's spirit allegedly put on one of Japan's hard-luck baseball teams, the Hanshin Tigers of Osaka, after an infamous incident in 1985. That was when overjoyed Tiger fans, celebrating the team's national championship, grabbed a Colonel Sanders statue from a nearby KFC and threw it into the local river. (The statue reportedly bore a resemblance to one of the Tigers' American players, bearded power hitter Randy Bass -- who later became an Oklahoma state senator.)

The Tigers haven't won a national championship since Colonel Sanders got wet, even through the statue was recovered from the river in 2009 without its left hand and glasses.

That same year KFC used the curse to draw attention to itself and another hard-luck baseball team -- the Chicago Cubs. In an open letter to the team, KFC offered Wrigley Field the Colonel statue from Osaka.

"We are working desperately with our Japanese colleagues to bring the curse-breaking Colonel Sanders statue to your field by opening day,” said the letter.

“While we can’t promise the statue will snap curses of billy goats, black cats or even a foul-ball-interfering fan, we figure it can’t hurt."

Given both the Cubs' and Tigers' records, perhaps the lesson is this: Don't mess with the Colonel.

More on moneyNOW

Jun 25, 2013 9:17PM
Ok, it will be good to see him sittin on the veranda of his antebellum mansion sippin a mint julep and admiring his lawn jockey holding the lamp at the end of the drive way! I bet the staff hopes he don't get to much into character, crackin the whip and all!
Jun 25, 2013 5:47PM

Way to go Japan...The Colonel and his chicken rocks

Jun 25, 2013 9:27PM
Too much money and not enough sense! 
Jun 25, 2013 5:34PM
I just pray to god the trousers had no skid marks.

colonel sanders suit 22k

guinnea pig armor 24k



Jun 25, 2013 10:31PM
the colonel was not so happy with his deal after done...million more or less dave Thomas put the colnel on the map..what is daves  stuff worth
Jun 26, 2013 1:56AM
you just know there is a reclusive tribe of chickens somewhere, mounting the suit in some cave, in a glass case, to show it to little chickens, and tell them scary stories.
Jun 25, 2013 11:31PM
ha! not to smart either ,not just spending $22.000 ,but he also buttoned it up the wrong way and wears it on the girls side !!!
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