NEWORLEANS - A sheriff's auction Thursday afternoon brought a new twist in the complicated family fight over the future of Brennan's Restaurant in the FrenchQuarter. The restaurant's familiar pink building at 417 Royal Street was sold at a sheriff's auction at Civil District Court for $6.85 million.
Brennan's Restaurant, which is heavily in debt, is caught up in a legal squabble between family members fighting over control of the building first opened by Owen Brennan in 1954.
A court spokesman confirmed the sale, which would have been stopped had family member Owen 'Pip'Brennan posted a $150,000 bond. The bond was a condition of the injunction ordered Wednesday by Civil Court Judge Piper Griffin, which would have halted the sale and foreclosure. The bond posting did not happen and the building was sold.
The building's new owner is Leggo / 4, a group of investors which includes businessman Terry White, who is also an investor in Galatoire's. Leggo / 4 bought the mortgages held by Brennan's last year and has pushed for foreclosure, saying that the restaurant owed more than $4 million to the company.
The Brennan family would now need a lease with Leggo / 4 to stay in the Royal Street building.
Brothers 'Pip' Brennan and Ted Brennan, sons of the restaurant's late founder, are embroiled in a fight over control of the restaurant. The two owned the restaurant along with their brother Jimmy, who died in 2010.
On May 17, a federal judge issued a ruling in the latest court fight, which did little to resolve the family struggle.
U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan ruled that 'Pip' Brennan is a shareholder in Brennan's Inc. She upheld his right to vote those shares even though he agreed to sell them in 2010 in a settlement with a competing faction of family members.
But Morgan also ruled that Pip isn't an officer or director in Brennan's Inc. 'at this time' and didn't properly call or conduct a shareholder meeting last month to vote on ousting two of his relatives.
Ted Brennan and his daughter, Bridget Brennan Tyrrell, sued Pip after he called the April 26 meeting to vote on removing them as directors of Brennan's.
Morgan agreed with Ted and his daughter that the meeting was 'invalid, unlawful, and of no force and effect' but rejected their argument that Pip is no longer a shareholder and doesn't have the right to vote his 196 shares. Morgan also refused to bar Pip and two sons, Blake and Clark, from entering the restaurant.
An attorney for Pip Brennan said his client planned to call another shareholder meeting June 6, setting the stage for another vote on removing Ted and Bridget.
Famous for inventing the Bananas Foster dessert in 1951, the restaurant already had a prominent place on the city's culinary landscape when its founder, Owen Edward Brennan, died in 1955 at age 45.
In the 1960s, the family opened restaurants in Houston and Dallas and purchased Commander's Palace, another upscale New Orleans restaurant. The expansion, however, led to a decline in the original restaurant's quality and fueled a schism between some family members.
Blake and Clark Brennan started managing the restaurant in 1995 and were making plans to expand when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, leaving the building heavily damaged.
Ted and Bridget accused the brothers of abandoning their positions without notice before repairs could be completed in 2006. Blake and Clark, however, claim Ted had informed them just before Katrina that they would never be anything but employees of the restaurant and should leave if they weren't satisfied.
Ted and Bridget claim they have been solely in control of Brennan's since Pip sold his shares more than two years. Pip, however, claims he is entitled to keep control over his shares because Brennan's Inc. hasn't fully compensated him for the stock sale.
After the April 26 shareholder meeting adjourned, Pip and his sons allegedly entered the closed restaurant without permission and tried to call a staff meeting, prompting Bridget to call the police.
The confrontation ended with an agreement to let Ted's son, Teddy, and Pip's son, Blake, temporarily co-manage the restaurant while the dispute shifted to court.
-- With reporting by Michael Kunzelman, AssociatedPress