Brennan’s iconic pink building sold at auction

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER --  The building that houses the famed Brennan's Restaurant on Royal Street sold at auction in May. Ralph Brennan plans to open a new restaurant here in the spring. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The building that houses the famed Brennan's Restaurant on Royal Street sold at auction in May. Ralph Brennan plans to open a new restaurant here in the spring.

The building that houses Brennan’s Restaurant, one of the grande dames of the New Orleans fine dining scene, was auctioned off Thursday at a sheriff’s sale for $6.85 million, the latest action in an ongoing saga that involves steep debts and a family feud that centers on control of the restaurant.

An attorney for one of the Brennan brothers who remains involved with the restaurant’s day-to-day operations said lease negotiations are underway with the new owner in an effort to keep the restaurant operating in its signature pink building on Royal Street.

The building’s mortgage holder, Leggo/4, snatched up the property at an Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office property auction. The opening bid for the building at 417-425 Royal St. was $3.3 million, according to sheriff’s office records.

The restaurant owed about $4.1 million to Leggo/4 for the mortgage the company bought from First NBC, civil court documents show. Leggo/4 began to push for foreclosure in September.

On Wednesday, Civil District Court Judge Piper Griffin temporarily yanked the property from the auction block by issuing an injunction. Owen “Pip” Brennan, however, did not post the required $150,000 bond in time to stop the sale.

Phil Wittmann, who is representing Ted Brennan, said he did not anticipate any changes in operations since the same company — Brennan’s Inc. — still runs the restaurant.

“It will be business as usual,” he said.

The forced sale is one facet of an ongoing power struggle between the brothers who are fighting for control of the restaurant, famous for its brandy milk punch and Bananas Foster. Owen Edward Brennan, opened the landmark in 1946. He died in 1955 at age 45. Pip and Ted are his sons.

In the 1960s, the family opened restaurants in Houston and Dallas and purchased Commander’s Palace, another upscale New Orleans restaurant. That expansion, however, fueled a schism among some family members.

In the latest squabble, Ted Brennan and his daughter, Bridget Brennan Tyrrell, sued Pip after he called a shareholder meeting last month to try to oust them as Brennan’s directors.

Ted and Bridget claimed Pip sold his shares of the company and can no longer vote as a shareholder. Pip countered that he was never paid for the shares so he retains his voting ability.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan last week agreed with Ted and Bridget that the meeting was invalid, but she also upheld Pip’s right to vote his shares.

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.