Father and son settle dispute over family business that builds New Orleans Mardi Gras floats

By Michael Kunzelman, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Famed Mardi Gras float builders settle family spat

NEW ORLEANS — A father and son who fought for control of a family business that has been building Mardi Gras floats in New Orleans for more than 50 years announced Tuesday that they have resolved their feud, less than a week after the son sued his father.

The agreement calls for Barry Kern to be reinstated as president of Blaine Kern Artists Inc., the company that bears his father’s name. The younger Kern said he would withdraw a lawsuit seeking to oust his father, Blaine Kern Sr., from the company.

“Mardi Gras is more important than our spat,” Barry Kern said.

“Mardi Gras is definitely going to go on, bigger and better than ever,” his father said.

The captains of the Bacchus and Endymion carnival krewes helped broker the agreement, arranging a meeting Tuesday between the Kerns.

“I was determined to save the family first if I could, and then of course the rest would fall in line,” Bacchus captain Owen “Pip” Brennan Jr. said.

Barry Kern said he resigned last month after his father tried to fire him without authority. The elder Kern’s lawyer has said Barry Kern was fired for “serious wrongdoing,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

In the lawsuit he filed last Friday in state court, Barry Kern accused his 83-year-old father’s much younger fourth wife, Holly Brown, of manipulating her husband and dominating his business and personal relationships. The suit also accused Blaine Kern Sr. of mismanaging the business, leaving it “technically insolvent.”

“We’re working on all that,” Barry Kern said of the company’s finances.

Blaine Kern Artists designs and builds many of the floats used in the city’s carnival parades and runs Mardi Gras World, a float warehouse and tourist attraction in New Orleans.

Endymion captain Ed Muniz said other float-builders eventually would have picked up the slack if the Kerns’ company fell apart.

“On the other hand, we’re only five months out from this Mardi Gras,” he added. “It’s better for us if the Kerns are together.”


Mardi Gras World: www.mardigrasworld.com/

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