A lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of the 2009 sale of Galatoire’s Restaurant, filed by two businessmen who had sought to buy the restaurant, was dismissed Thursday in Orleans Parish Civil District Court.
It was the latest move in a contentious series of court filings involving the historic and high-profile French Quarter restaurant since the ownership structure changed from a continuum of the founder’s heirs to include new investors.
The suit alleging a breach of contract was filed in October on behalf of Bourbon Investments LLC and 209 Realty LLC, two companies run by businessmen Terry White and Danny Conwill.
White had submitted an offer to buy Galatoire’s and its building from its family owners. Instead, an investor group called New Orleans Equity bought the business and property. That group includes John Georges, who is publisher of The Advocate.
The suit sought either to have White’s deal enforced, essentially overturning the sale to New Orleans Equity, or an unspecified amount of monetary damages awarded. Judge Kern Reese dismissed the lawsuit after a hearing Thursday that included testimony from Conwill and Melvin Rodrigue, chief executive officer of Galatoire’s.
“We are gratified that this suit has been dismissed,” Randall Smith, lead counsel for New Orleans Equity, said in a statement. “We never believed that the suit had any merit, and it’s time for everyone to move on so that Galatoire’s can continue to focus on serving fine food and drink in an incomparable setting.”
White, however, indicated this was not his last salvo.
“To quote John Paul Jones, ‘I have not yet begun to fight,’ ” he said Thursday when reached for comment.
White said he and his partners were “under contract and ready to close” on an agreement to buy Galatoire’s when the deal was undone by New Orleans Equity.
In their suit, Bourbon Investments and 209 Realty claimed New Orleans Equity “unjustly enriched themselves” by modifying the terms of the contract to sell the restaurant presented under White’s offer.
Founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, the Bourbon Street restaurant grew into a bastion of French Creole culinary tradition and became an incubator for many customs of its own making, including a boisterous Friday lunch service. Through its first 104 years, the restaurant was owned and operated by a board composed of Galatoire’s descendents that grew over the generations to 33 people.
In the 2009 sale, New Orleans Equity, led by Georges and local businessman Todd Trosclair, acquired a 75 percent ownership stake in the restaurant, with the remaining 25 percent split among five family members.
In March, the ownership structure changed again, when Georges sold 10 percent of his share in Galatoire’s and its sister restaurants to Louisiana shipbuilding magnate Donald “Boysie” Bollinger and banker John C. Simpson.
Bollinger and Simpson were part of White’s earlier offer to buy Galatoire’s as members of Bourbon Investments, though they were no longer affiliated with that group when they became minority owners of Galatoire’s last month.
Independent of his bid for Galatoire’s, White partnered with local restaurateur Ralph Brennan in 2013 to buy the historic Brennan’s Restaurant a few blocks away on Royal Street. They purchased Brennan’s in a foreclosure auction for $6.85 million and later also acquired the Brennan’s Restaurant business name, logo, wine collection and recipes for $3 million in a bankruptcy sale. That restaurant reopened in November following a massive renovation.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.