Bob Ross is remembered as a talented painter with a soothing voice and his own show on PBS, The Joy of Painting. It was televised in the 1980s and became a hit, with Ross being able to display his artistic abilities. Along with his then-business partners, Walt and Annette Kowalski, he created Bob Ross Inc., which owns Ross’s name, likeness, and intellectual property.
Ownership of Bob Ross Inc. was split between the Kowalskis, Bob Ross, and his wife Jane Ross. Jane passed away in 1992, and then Bob in 1995, giving the Kowalskis complete ownership of the company. With the recent release of Netflix documentary Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed, we're presented with a different side to the Kowalskis. The family is now receiving heavy criticism.
Who are the Kowalskis?
Reports show that Bob Ross met Annette Kowalski when she was a student in his painting class. At the time, she was grieving the death of her son. Annette and Walt Kowalski saw the potential in Ross and became business partners with him, developing the popular PBS show that he was on.
In Bob Ross’s will and testament, he left his estate and rights to his name and likeness to his son, Steve, and half-brother, Jimmi Cox. However, the Kowalskis sued both recipients, saying that they own all of Ross’s life work, and won the lawsuit. Both Kowalskis retired in 2012 and passed full ownership of the company to their daughter, Joan Kowalski.
The Netflix documentary, which shows that the Kowalski family owns all of the paintings Ross made throughout his career, featured interviews from several of his family members. Ross and his family battled for the rights to the company against the Kowalskis, before and after Ross’s death.
Since the Netflix documentary has been released, Bob Ross Inc. has refuted all of the allegations that came from the documentary. The company's statement talks about its dedication to promoting the history of Bob Ross, and that it wasn’t able to provide input for the Netflix documentary.
What's the future for Bob Ross Inc.?
The documentary reveals that as Joan Kowalski has taken over operations of the company, she’s ventured away from the art of Bob Ross. The company website offers a variety of services and products, such as Bob Ross memorabilia, merchandise, painting supplies, books, and DVDs, as well as classes from a “Bob Ross Certified Instructor” and the opportunity to become one. Television stations still broadcast episodes of The Joy of Painting, and you can find Bob Ross products at art supply stores across the United States and Canada.
What was Bob Ross's net worth?
It’s estimated that Ross had a net worth of $10 million when he died in 1995. Considering Bob Ross Inc.'s numerous business ventures today, the company could now be worth much more.