The Famous Amos cookie company is an American cultural icon.
Each year, millions of delicious confections made by the company founded by Wally Amos are sold in stores nationwide. But despite early investments from his celebrity friends — including a soul legend — Wally Amos couldn’t keep Famous Amos afloat.
Amos was an experienced Hollywood talent broker, but he didn’t know his way around the corporate world. What’s more, Amos — known for his perpetually sunny, upbeat demeanor — has no regrets about how it all went down.
“If you sit around starting to feel sorry for yourself, and blaming everyone else for your position in life, it is like being in quicksand,” he said to the New York Times. “In quicksand, if you start flailing all about and panicking with each movement you go in deeper, but if you just stay calm and look about, chances are you’ll see a twig or something you can reach to pull yourself out. Or, if you stay there long enough someone will come and rescue you.”
Let’s take a look at how Wally Amos recovered from selling off Famous Amos — and where you can buy things that he actually owns now!
Editorial note: Inflation prices were calculated using the inflation calculator, and are speculative estimates.
Why Marvin Gaye Invested In Famous Amos
As AfroTech previously reported, Marvin Gaye was one of the first investors in the Famous Amos cookie company. The soul legend, who gave Wally Amos $25,000 to start the company, said he was influenced by Amos’s genial nature and predilection for success.
“Wally, Wally … hey, wait a minute, man. If you’re doin’ it, that’s okay, I’ll invest in it,” he reportedly said, according to Amos’ memoir.
How The Founder Lost It All
The New York Times details how the Famous Amos founder lost it all. Even though 1982’s revenue topped $12 million (the equivalent of nearly $36 million in 2022), the revenue dropped down to only $10 million only three years later, and the company posted a loss of $300,000 that same year.
What’s more, Amos’ personal finances were in disarray. He was behind on his mortgage by 15 months and nearly lost his home to auction.
At that point, several investors stepped in to help keep the company afloat. However, ultimately, so many investors were involved that Amos lost his equity stake in the company.
In 1988, the Shansby Group purchased the company for $3 million. By 1989, Amos walked out completely after being a “paid spokesperson” for the company he helped create.
The Legacy And Return
With the sale of Famous Amos came the sale of Wally Amos’ financial future, according to History.com.
In 1992, The President Baking Company plopped down $61 million to purchase the company — which the outlet reports was “more than 55 times what Wally Amos sold his controlling stake for just a few years earlier.”
That same year, Amos launched a new cookie company called Wally Amos Presents — but got sued by the Famous Amos company for doing so. As it turned out, the deal he’d signed included a clause that all but forced him to give up even the rights to his own name. Furthermore, he ended up changing the cookie company’s name to “Uncle Nonamé,” and it filed for bankruptcy in 1996.
When the Keebler cookie company bought the rights to Famous Amos in 1999, Wally Amos signed a different deal with them to be the “paid spokesperson” for the company, but the deal didn’t last long — and he then opened up a company called Chip & Cookie in Kailua, HI (per NBC News) and still owns a majority stake in Uncle Wally’s Muffin Co. in Shirley, NY. Uncle Wally’s muffins can be found in all the “big box” stores — including Costco and Wal-Mart — across the country.
And Amos even appeared on “Shark Tank” pitching yet another cookie company!