New Orleans funk band Galactic has finalized the purchase of the famed Tipitina’s music club from its embattled owner, the band’s attorney told WWL-TV.
Galactic’s attorney, Dino Gankendorff, confirmed the sale happened Friday after long negotiations with Roland Von Kurnatowski, who has owned Tips since 1996 but has been accused of bilking investors and stiffing lenders in a series of lawsuits this year.
“Today, Galactic successfully acquired Tipitina’s Development Corp.,” Gankendorff said in a phone interview. “The band is honored to be the caretaker of the future of the great music from New Orleans.”
Galactic bought Tipitina’s stock using a holding company called Tchoupy Waters Society LLC., which registered with the Secretary of State on Sept. 28 and is managed by Galactic’s members, Stanton Moore, Ben Ellman, Jeff Raines, Robert Mercurio and Rich Vogel.
The completion of the sale was first reported Friday by The New Orleans Advocate, citing unnamed sources.
Von Kurnatowski did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment Friday.
WWL-TV broke the story that Galactic was trying to purchase Tipitina’s on Nov. 17, shortly after The New Orleans Advocate detailed Von Kurnatowski’s legal problems. The WWL-TV story also exposed Von Kurnatowski’s problems bouncing checks to pay performers for shows at Tipitina’s and another venue he owned and has since sold, the Orpheum Theater.
The sale of a beloved New Orleans institution to a band known for its New Orleans sound was cheered by music lovers and musicians, including former "Tonight Show" bandleader Branford Marsalis, who reacted to the news from WWL-TV on Twitter by saying, "Thanks, guys!"
Galactic started playing at Tipitina's in the 1990s under the band's original name, Galactic Prophylactic. Its purchase of the club is a return to the musical roots of Tipitina's, which was founded by music lovers in 1977 as a venue for the R&B piano legend Professor Longhair to play during the last few years of his life. Von Kurnatowski has acknowledged that he was not a music person when he purchased the club, but has said it grew into more than a real estate deal.
He and his wife continue to own the nonprofit Tipitina's Foundation, which supports local music by providing instruments and education. The foundation has been having its own financial struggles and was cited by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor for failing to file required financial statements for 2017.
Tipitina's Foundation has to file financial statements with the state within 90 days of year's end because it receives public funds. The last time it filed was for 2016, and its tax return that year showed a loss of nearly $400,000 in net assets and a negative fund balance at the end of the year.
The records also disclose that the foundation owned by Von Kurnatowski has been paying monthly rent and other event facility fees to Tipitina's and other for-profit companies affiliated with Von Kurnatowski.
It's unclear what will happen to the foundation or whether it will be able to operate using the Tipitina's name now that Von Kurnatowski no longer owns the club.