Posted: Mar 06, 2019
The celebrity chef has divested from the hospitality group that bears his name.
In the fall of 2017, there Mario Batali was, beaming like a proud papa as the first wave of people walked through the doors at the brand-new Los Angeles Eataly. The superstar chef and restaurateur who helped change the direction of Italian food in America, palled around with celebs from Gwyneth Paltrow to Jim Gaffigan, and elevated the Food Network’s profile back when it was still a fledgling cable channel, was admiring how he’d stretched his empire from coast-to-coast.
Just a few months later, after damning sexual misconduct allegations, his visage would be stripped from the premises. Every cookbook and product of his would be removed from the shelves. A little more than a year later, when Eataly Las Vegas opened, it was like he never existed. But though to the outside world it appeared he was no longer associated with Eataly or any of the other restaurants his Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group operated, Batali actually still profited off of them. That took a major hit today as the chef has fully divested from B&B Hospitality.
“[Batali] will no longer profit from the restaurants in any way, shape or form,” Lidia Bastianich’s daughter and now head of the hospitality group, Tanya Bastianich Manuali, told the New York Times. And, as Eataly USA’s CEO Nicola Farinetti told Robb Report in December, his time with that company is drawing to a close as well, “Mario hasn’t been involved in Eataly day-to-day in the past seven years probably. Since last December last year, he stopped doing anything with us. We are in the process of divestment.”
Batali himself didn’t have much to say in response to the news of his full divestment from B&B Hospitality, releasing only a brief statement and nothing more: “I have reached an agreement with Joe and no longer have any stake in the restaurants we built together. I wish him the best of luck in the future.”
Batali and Joe Bastianich first met more than 20 years ago and teamed up to create the wildly successful and influential Greenwich Village restaurant Babbo. They formed B&B Hospitality along with Joe’s mother Lidia, who is a restaurateur, cookbook author, and TV personality. They opened numerous successful Manhattan restaurants before growing their empire beyond New York, building restaurants in Boston, Pittsburgh, and teaming with Nancy Silverton on the Chi Spacca and Mozza in Los Angeles. Each of them also worked to bring the Italian specialty food market Eataly to America, where it has now grown to five cities.
But all along there had been a dark side to Batali that actually seemed to be an open secret until the #metoo movement of late 2017 forced people to confront the abuse within the restaurant industry. Anyone who read the 2006 book Heat by Bill Buford got a glimpse into this side of Batali, which came into further view with the Eater NY investigating into his behavior, and the 60 Minutes profile of his accusers a few months later.
In the wake of the allegations that forced Batali’s likeness to disappear from his restaurants, a new debate arose: Should abusers still get to profit from the restaurants they owned but weren’t the face of? Even though Batali was no longer around his establishments, Manuali acknowledged that his continued financial interest in the company was holding it back, and for the good of the restaurants and the livelihoods of the people who remained, they needed to buy him out. As Manuali told the Times about the group’s employees, “These people have been living under a cloud long enough.”
By Jeremy Repanich
March 6, 2019
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