Though certain dishes and many traditions at Galatoire’s Restaurant seem immune to change, the ownership group controlling the historic French Quarter restaurant has been much more open to re-evaluation.
This week, that group added two high-profile members, with Louisiana shipbuilding magnate Donald “Boysie” Bollinger and banker John C. Simpson becoming minority owners.
John Georges, majority owner of the historic restaurant and publisher of The Advocate, sold 10 percent of his ownership in Galatoire’s to the two men, according to a statement from Galatoire’s released Monday.
The 10 percent stake includes an interest in the related Galatoire’s Bistro in Baton Rouge and in Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak, located adjacent to the original Bourbon Street restaurant, as well as “in any future endeavors involving the Galatoire’s ownership group,” according to the statement.
Bollinger is the chairman and chief executive officer of Bollinger Enterprises and the former chairman and CEO of Bollinger Shipyards Inc. Simpson is chairman of Alexandria-based Red River Bank.
Georges and LaPlace businessman Todd Trosclair, who led an investor group that bought Galatoire’s from its original family owners in 2009, remain majority owners of the restaurant company.
In a statement, Georges said that since buying the restaurant, he and Trosclair “intended to welcome more partners that embrace the local dining and entertainment traditions of Galatoire’s and the French Quarter.”
In fact, Bollinger and Simpson had been part of a separate bid to buy Galatoire’s before Georges and Trosclair. The two men — along with businessmen Terry White and Danny Conwill — were part of a company called Bourbon Investments Inc. that also tried to buy Galatoire’s in 2009. Instead, the family sold to the group led by Georges and Trosclair.
According to Monday’s release, Bollinger and Simpson are no longer part of Bourbon Investments.
White, meanwhile, went on to buy Brennan’s Restaurant in a foreclosure auction along with restaurateur Ralph Brennan. They opened a new Brennan’s in November following a lengthy renovation.
In October, Bourbon Investments filed suit against Galatoire’s and its current owners for breach of contract, challenging the legitimacy of the sale to Georges and his partners. That suit remains unresolved.
Founded in 1905 by Jean Galatoire, the restaurant grew into a bastion of French Creole culinary tradition and 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 the founder’s descendants that grew over the generations to 33 people.
The group that Georges and Trosclair led took on 75 percent ownership of the restaurant, with the remaining 25 percent split among five family members: Leon Galatoire, Michele Galatoire, Duane Galatoire Attaway, Ashley Attaway and Craighten Attaway. The sale doesn’t change the family members’ ownership stake, a spokesman for the restaurant said.
A second restaurant, Galatoire’s Bistro, opened in Baton Rouge in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The bistro closed in 2011, but a new version opened in a different location in 2013. Later that same year, Galatoire’s expanded in New Orleans as well, opening Galatoire’s 33 Bar & Steak on Bourbon Street.
It’s been a busy season for Bollinger, who last week announced a $20 million donation to the National World War II Museum, the largest single gift the institution has received. Bollinger is on the museum’s board of trustees and was an early proponent of plans to build the facility in New Orleans.
In December, he sold Bollinger Shipyards to his nephew Ben Bordelon and the family that owns Louisiana maritime giant Edison Chouest Offshore.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.