Dave & Buster's Co-Founder James Corley Died a Millionaire — What Happened to Him?

Dave & Buster’s co-founder, James W. “Buster” Corley, died on Jan. 2, 2023, by suicide. What was his net worth after a successful career?

Danielle Letenyei - Author

May 17 2023, Updated 4:50 p.m. ET

David Corriveau and James Corley celebrating at a Dave & Buster's.
Source: Getty Images

On Jan. 2, 2023, Dave & Buster’s co-founder James W. “Buster” Corley died by suicide. Corley, 72, founded the popular arcade restaurant chain in 1982 with the late David Corriveau.

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Corley not only leaves behind a legacy attached to his restaurant chain, but also a fortune. Keep reading to find out what inspired Corley to start Dave & Buster's and how much he was worth at the time of his death.

James W. "Buster" Corley

Dave & Buster's Co-founder

Net worth: $6 Million–$10 Million

James "Buster" Corley was a restauranteur who cofounded the popular arcade restaurant chain Dave & Buster's in 1982 with business partner Dave Corriveau. He died in his Texas home by suicide on Jan. 2, 2023.

Age: 72

Wife: Leacy

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David Corriveau and James Corley holding a plush toy at a Dave & Buster's.
Source: Getty Images

What is James W. Corley’s net worth?

According to The U.S. Sun, Corley had a net worth estimated between $6 million and $10 million at the time of his death. Much of Corley’s wealth came from Dave & Buster's, which he and Corriveau ran until 1989, when retail conglomerate Edison Brothers Stores bought a majority ownership in the restaurant chain to help it expand.

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Where did Dave & Buster's start?

Corley and Corriveau opened the first Dave & Buster’s in Dallas in 1982. The two met in Little Rock, Ark., in 1978, when they each had separate businesses located next to each other. Corley owned a restaurant/bar called Buster’s, and Corriveau ran a nearby arcade called Slick Willy’s World of Entertainment.

Corley’s restaurant was a “stylish establishment attracting young professionals,” reports Arkansas Business. Its clientele included legislators, lobbyists, "bond daddies," and other yuppies. Buster’s made about $1.5 million in annual revenue back in the early 1980s, Arkansas Business reports.

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The two entrepreneurs noticed that their customers would often visit both the restaurant and the arcade, which gave them the idea to start a business that combined dining and arcade games.

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“What happened was people would play at Slick’s and then come over and dine at Buster’s and vice versa so that we got this cross-pollination,” Corley told Arkansas Business in 2015. “So after we observed this for a while, we decided that we would take the two concepts, roll them together, put them on a bigger scale and put them in a much bigger market.”

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Why is it called Dave & Buster’s?

When it came to naming their new business, Corley and Corriveau decided to use their own names, but they couldn’t decide whose name should come first. The decision was made in a coin toss that Corriveau won.

David Corriveau and James Corley playing at Dave & Buster's.
Source: Getty Images
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How much is Dave & Buster’s worth?

As of 2023, Dave & Buster’s is a publicly traded company with over 140 locations across the country. The company has a net worth of $1.71 billion, according to Macrotrends. The largest Dave & Buster’s is located in Orlando and has over 40,200 square feet of dining and entertainment space.

How did James Corley die?

Corley died at his home near White Rock Lake in Texas due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound, reports local ABC affiliate WFAA. He had reportedly suffered a stroke four months before, which severely damaged the communication and personality part of his brain, his daughter told WFAA.

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"Buster’s passion for hospitality, his demand for excellence, and the deep care he had for his team members were unparalleled,” a spokesperson for Dave & Buster’s told WFAA. "His pioneering spirit and steadfast belief that ‘everybody is somebody’ set the foundation for bringing food and games to millions of Dave & Buster’s guests over the past 40 years."

Corley’s business partner Corriveau died unexpectedly at age 63 in 2015.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the ​National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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