KFC Japan chief buys 'colonel's' suit at Texas auction and tries it on

Head of franchise's Japanese arm dons the iconic white suit after paying US$21,510

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 5:44am
AP

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The president and chief executive of Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan has purchased the trademark white suit worn by company founder "Colonel" Harland Sanders at auction in the US for US$21,510 - and then tried it on.

Masao "Charlie" Watanabe grinned while putting on the suit jacket and black string tie at the Heritage Auctions event on Saturday, standing beneath a photograph of Sanders. He had already planned to attend a company marketing meeting in Dallas, but arrived early after he found out about the auction, he said.

Watanabe was one of hundreds of in-person, telephone and online bidders vying for various items, including a gun belt owned by legendary outlaw Jesse James and leg irons that restrained abolitionist John Brown.

Watanabe also bought a mini-collection of Sanders' memorabilia, including his 1973 Kentucky driver's licence, for US$1,912.

Sanders is popular in Japan and statues of him stand in front of most KFC restaurants there. Watanabe plans to display the suit at a restaurant in Tokyo.

"Every child in Japan knows Colonel Sanders' face and his uniform," Watanabe said.

Sanders was named a "Kentucky colonel" by the state's governor in 1935, five years after he began cooking meals for travellers who stopped at his petrol station, according to his biography on the KFC website.

Earlier on Saturday, the leg irons used on Brown after his failed 1859 raid on a federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, in what is now West Virginia, sold to an unidentified bidder for US$13,145.

Many scholars believe Brown's raid hastened the start of the civil war as he escalated tensions between North and South by trying to incite an armed insurrection. The Connecticut native and some followers seized the arsenal, hoping to provide 100,000 weapons to slaves who never joined them. Brown was hanged for treason and murder.