Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed gives an insight into the life of late artist and TV host Bob Ross. His passing left an empire in hands of his partners, against his wishes. So how much was the artist really worth?

Bob Ross passed away 26 years ago, but if you ask teenagers now, they can probably tell you exactly who he is.

His likeness has established a position in pop culture after his image was featured in Family Guy and Deadpool 2, and marathons of The Joy of Painting garnering millions of views.

While Bob maintained a lively and optimistic demeanor to the world, the battle for his empire was of something completely opposite when he passed.

So how much of his riches were at stake in the lawsuit?

screenshot, YouTube – The New York Times

A lot of zeros

His 31-season long painting series became a global phenomenon after it premiered in 1983, with audiences reaching from Asia to South America.

Combine that with the success of his company, Bob Ross Inc, it’s unsurprising to know that the Kowalski’s were adamant on gaining ownership.

Painting over 1,100 pieces through his career, it is an extremely large amount of original works, but they are not easy to obtain since Bob Ross Inc. has continued to hold them, per Bob’s wishes.

Imagine how much more he would’ve been worth if he sold them.

Vendetta, truth lies and the mafia | Official Trailer | Netflix

Vendetta, truth lies and the mafia | Official Trailer | Netflix

The Bob Ross battle explained

Bob Ross Inc. started off as humble joint business between Bob, his wife, Jane, and Annette Kowalski, one of his students.

As his TV career grew, his company mirrored the success when it branched into a line of art supplies and eventually into a ‘school’, where Bob Ross-trained artists taught classes – it became a $15 million business.

As stated by the company terms, the death of company partners resulted in their share split between the remaining players, but Bob knew that the Kowalskis were hungry for his stock.

When his health deteriorated due to lifelong smoking, the Kowalskis approached Bob to hand over his estate to them; it prompted him to write Annette and Walt out of his will, forwarding to his half-brother, Jimmie Cox, and son, Steve only.

The only problem was that the Kowalski’s argued that Bob’s achievements were under the ownership of the company, making it their property and thus winning the rights.

screenshot, YouTube – The New York Times

Now under the control of Joan Kowalski, Annette and Walt’s daughter, Bob Ross Inc. found themselves defending against Steve, who accused them of illegally using his father’s image since their takeover, developing far beyond their original intention of art supplies.

Unfortunately for Steve, it was ruled in favour of Bob Ross Inc., who owned all of the artist’s intellectual property. Steve didn’t have the finance to continue a lawsuit against a multi-milion dollar company and thus was forced to swallow the defeat. In exchange though, the company allowed him to resume his art career under his name without fear of another future lawsuit.

Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed is available on Netflix now.