Richest Business
Net Worth:
$50 Million
Sep 21, 1943 - Jul 27, 2011 (67 years old)
Fort Smith, Arkansas
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What was Jennings Osborne's Net Worth?

Jennings Osborne was an American entrepreneur who had a peak net worth of $50 million. At the time of his death, Jennings' estate was actually in debt to the tune of $3.5 million after a failed business deal. Within a few years his widow was forced to declare bankruptcy. Jennings Osborne died on July 27, 2011 at the age of 67.

He was known as a philanthropist who organized elaborate Christmas lights displays. In 1994 he was sued by neighbors over a Christmas display that reportedly featured more than 3 million lights. The lawsuit went all the way up to the Arkansas Supreme Court. The resulting court decision forced Jennings to relocate the display to commercial locations like Disney World and Graceland.


He was born William Jennings Bryan Osborne, Jr. on September 21, 1943 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Jennings earned his fortune as the founder of the Arkansas Research Medical Testing Center. Founded in 1968, the center was reportedly credited with running some of the first human tests on such drugs as Viagra and Motrin.

Central Arkansas residents also knew him as the resident of the big white house with the wall around it on Cantrell Road in Little Rock, Arkansas—the one that glowed as red as Rudolph's nose every Christmas (until the courts made him turn out the lights). He was also known for throwing huge barbecues and fireworks displays, and known as a hog-calling enthusiast. His name, along with his wife and daughter's names (Mitzi and Allison 'Breezy', respectively), is cast at the feet of the brass eagle whose wings stretch out at the entrance of the Clinton Presidential Center.

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights was a display of Christmas lights and decorations at Disney's Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. Initially constructed by an Arkansas businessman as a gift for his six-year-old daughter, the display became one of the most popular attractions during the park's holiday season. It debuted in 1995 and ran until 2016.

The display was the brainchild of Jennings Osborne, who began decorating his home in Little Rock, Arkansas with Christmas lights in 1986. His daughter, Allison Brianne "Breezy" Osborne, had asked him for a Christmas light display, and he complied by stringing 1,000 lights around their home. The display grew in size each year, and by 1992, it was attracting thousands of visitors and the ire of neighbors. Osborne's neighbors sued over the elaborate light display and ultimately were victorious. The ruling restricted such elaborate displays to commercially-zoned locations.

In 1995, Disney approached Osborne about bringing his light display to Walt Disney World. Osborne agreed, and the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights debuted that year. The display was an instant hit, and it quickly became one of the most popular attractions at the park.

The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights featured over 5 million lights, synchronized to holiday music. The display was also decorated with a variety of Christmas-themed scenes, including a nativity scene, a gingerbread house, and a snowman.

The display was a beloved part of the holidays at Walt Disney World for over two decades. It was discontinued in 2016, but the vast majority of the lights were donated to the Give Kids the World Village charity complex.

(Photo by Mark Perlstein/Getty Images)

Death and Finances

Jennings passed away in a Little Rock, Arkansas on July 27, 2011 from complications of heart surgery the prior month of April. He was survived by his wife Mitzi Osborne.

To the shock of people in Arkansas, who thought the Osborne's had limitless money, just two years later Mitzi was forced to file for bankruptcy citing $1.2 million worth of debts and $1.5 million worth of assets. At his all-time peak, Jennings Osborne's net worth was $50 million. In her bankruptcy filing following his death, Mitzi Osborne showed that she sold 31 vehicles for around $280,000 to stave off creditors. The family also had to hold an auction at one of their homes to sell personal items to satisfy judgments.

It was eventually revealed that Jennings' fortunes evaporated when a deal to sell his company went south. He then went into significant debt to found a new company called The Osborne Research Center. At the time he died, Jennings was in debt to the tune of at least $3.5 million. In addition to the company sale going bad, Jennings gave millions of dollars away to charity during his life and enjoyed a rather lavish lifestyle. He was known to give money to strangers he read about in the paper after a recent tragedy. He hosted free barbecues to feed thousands in tornado-impacted towns.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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