An ongoing feud that has fractured the first family of New Orleans float-building for five years came to an end Friday.
Blaine Kern and his son, Barry, agreed before a Civil District Court judge to dismiss long-pending litigation that at one time threatened to derail several Carnival parades.
“Any disagreements are over and extinguished as of today,” Barry Kern said. “We’re all happy to have it behind us and just kind of move forward and do what we do best, and that’s build floats and create Mardi Gras.”
Under the agreement, Barry Kern will continue as president and chief executive officer of Blaine Kern Artists Inc., the company his father began in 1957.
Blaine Kern, who calls himself Mr. Mardi Gras, will continue his role as an “international ambassador” for Carnival.
Blaine Kern also has sold his 50.1 percent stake in the company to Barry Kern. The terms of the financial deal were not disclosed.
Both Kerns were present for Friday’s meeting with Judge Kern Reese.
Reese’s consent judgment does three things. It dismisses lawsuits that had been pending for several years; it dissolves an injunction Reese put in place in 2012 to give control of the company to Barry Kern; and it says the court will retain jurisdiction over any future disputes between the two related to the agreement.
Both Barry Kern and Blaine Kern said they were satisfied with the resolution to their long-standing feud.
“My wife and I are happy to finally put this thing behind us,” said Blaine Kern, 88. “I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life along with my wife, writing my life story, traveling and building my Mr. Mardi Gras brand.”
Blaine Kern Artists designs and builds floats for a number of parading krewes, including Rex, Zulu and Endymion. The company also has expanded its business to include work for theme parks and making the papier-mâché cows used on Chick-fil-A billboards.
Father and son had been at odds since October 2010, when Barry Kern filed suit against his father claiming that the elder Kern was mismanaging the company. Barry Kern — a shareholder in and president of the company since 1995 — said his father was not paying employees, creditors and the Internal Revenue Service.
The younger Kern also said he was locked out of the company shortly after Blaine Kern married his fourth wife, Holly Bensel-Brown, in July 2010.
Barry Kern said his father began to spend lavishly and irresponsibly at his wife’s request, often demanding advances of money from the company. He said his father and Bensel-Brown had conspired to push him out of his role in the family business.
Barry Kern was fired from his position as president of Blaine Kern Artists in September 2010. Though he believed his father did not have the authority to terminate him, he still stepped down from the post, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit was filed after Barry Kern said the company was unable to meet its payroll and had to furlough some employees.
With the help of the leaders of the Rex and Endymion organizations, the Kerns were able to work out an agreement before the matter went before a judge. The resolution of the family feud was announced in a televised news conference.
The agreement called, in part, for Blaine Kern to sell his shares in the company to Barry Kern and for the younger Kern to take over managerial control of Blaine Kern Artists as the company’s president. Blaine Kern would receive a lifetime consulting contract from the company.
But in a second lawsuit filed in April 2011, Barry Kern said his father never consummated the deal, refusing to sell his shares and make required appointments to the company’s board. Instead, he continued to negotiate deals with customers and demanded that the company issue checks to him for his personal expenses, among other things, the second lawsuit said.
In his response, Blaine Kern said he had been “under duress” and feeling pressured by the krewes when he agreed to hand over the reins of the business to Barry Kern.
Reese sided with Barry Kern, and even though an appeals court overturned Reese’s temporary injunction, the judge eventually affirmed Barry Kern’s control of the float business with a injunction issued in 2012 following a hearing.
The new consent judgment dissolves that injunction. It is no longer necessary because Blaine Kern has sold his shares to Barry Kern, an attorney for the Kerns said Friday.
In addition to patching things up legally, the family has made amends outside the courtroom, Barry Kern said. After meeting with the judge, Blaine and Barry Kern, along with their wives and Barry’s sons, Fitz and Andrew, went out together for lunch.
“Everybody is good,” Barry Kern said. “There are no Hatfields and McCoys. All is well.”