Case-based reasoning (CBR) is considered a vital methodology in the current business forecasting area because of its simplicity, competitive performance with modern methods, and ease of pattern maintenance. Business failure prediction (BFP) is an effective tool that helps business people and entrepreneurs make more precise decisions in the current crisis. Using CBR as a basis for BFP can improve the tool's utility because CBR has the potential advantage in making predictions as well as suggestions compared with other methods. Recent studies indicate that an ensemble of various techniques has the possibility of improving the performance of predictive model. This research focuses on an early investigation on predicting business failure using a CBR ensemble (CBRE) forecasting method constructed from the use of random similarity functions (RSF), dubbed RSF-based CBRE. Four issues are discussed: (i) the reasons for the use of RSF as the basis in the CBRE forecasting method for BFP; (ii) the means to construct the RSF-based CBRE forecasting method for BFP; (iii) the empirical test on sensitivity of the RSF-based CBRE to the number of member CBR predictors; and (iv) performance assessment of the ensemble forecasting method. Results of the RSF-based CBRE forecasting method were statistically validated by comparing them with those of multivariate discriminant analysis, logistic regression, single CBR, and a linear support vector machine. The results from Chinese hotel BFP indicate that the RSF-based CBRE forecasting method could significantly improve CBR's upper limit of predictive capability. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.