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All the Unanswered Questions We Have About Mario Batali

For one, how much did he walk away with?

Gerardo Mora/Getty Images

Today, the New York Times reported that Batali has finally, officially divested from all his restaurants. This is the first time a chef has voluntarily severed financial ties to his restaurants following accusations of sexual misconduct. Restaurateur Thomas Carter divested from New York City restaurants Estela, Cafe Altro Paradiso, and Flora Bar following accusations that he had instilled a “culture of fear,” but the chefs involved in #MeToo have largely stepped away from operations while remaining financially linked to their businesses.

In a letter to B&B Hospitality employees, Batali’s former partner Joe Bastianich announced that he and his sister Tanya Bastianich Manuali had purchased all of Batali’s shares. He also announced that Bastianich Manuali would lead the operations of a new 16-restaurant group. Nancy Silverton and Lidia Bastianich will be partners in the yet-to-be-named group, and Del Posto chef Melissa Rodriguez and GM Jeffrey Katz are now partners at the former Batali restaurant.

Batali first announced that he was beginning the divestment process back in April 2018, but negotiations stalled. Until today, he continued to profit from his restaurants, and anyone who dined at Babbo, Lupa, Otto, or the other restaurants in the B&B Hospitality group indirectly supported the man who allegedly groped his employees and fans. Now that the Bastianich family has bought out all of Batali’s shares, there’s no longer a risk that diners are putting money in the pocket of Batali, but many questions remain unanswered.

We sent the following list of questions to reps for Joe Bastianich and Tanya Bastianich Manuali today. We let them know we would publish the questions, and below are the comments provided, with the rep’s responses to our questions noted in italics below.

Questions about the payout

The argument for divestment is an argument about money and power — and who holds it. An abusive chef who merely “steps away” continues to profit off a business built on the backs of the very people they harmed. Divestment — which would remove the bad actor out of the restaurant’s income flow — is a critical and necessary step towards remedying the cultural problems endemic to restaurants that have fostered an atmosphere of rampant sexism.

Part of the argument for divestment is also that it would cause economic injury to the person divesting — certainly an incomplete form of penance but one that at least delivers a meaningful consequence. With that in mind, we’d like to know how much exactly Batali profited by selling his shares. While women who experience harassment and sexism might find themselves forced out jobs and out of the industry, what happens to someone like Mario Batali — and how is his future earning power affected, if at all, by such a deal?

The rep confirmed that “the deal terms are confidential other than that Tanya and Joe acquired all of Mario’s interests in the restaurants.”

• What was the sum total paid out to Batali for his stake in the restaurant group?

No comment.

• What were his profits on the sale?

Same.

• What is the expected sum total pay out for Batali for his stake in Eataly?

Same.

• Was Batali aggressive in the negotiations over his stakes in the restaurant group?

Same.

• Did Batali sign a noncompete?

Same.

Questions about Batali’s ongoing relationship to the group

When Batali “stepped away” from the restaurants in December 2018, he noted in a statement that “I want any place I am associated with to feel comfortable and safe for the people who work or dine there” — and statements from Bastianich and companies associated with Batali professed having similar goals. So how will a group of restaurant so indelibly shaped by Batali do that?

• Is Batali allowed on premises? What’s the policy around that?

Mario agreed over a year ago to not go into the restaurants and that agreement still holds.

• Does Batali retain the rights to his story and the story of the restaurant group? (Could he write a memoir detailing his time his time building these restaurants, for example)

No comment.

• Did Batali sign an NDA regarding the terms of the deal?

Same.

• Did Batali sign an NDA regarding any other aspects of his relationship to the restaurant group?

Same.

Questions about how the restaurant group has or hasn’t changed

Batali wasn’t solely responsible for the cultural problems across B&B Hospitality. Longtime partner Joe Bastianich was also accused of contributing to an unhealthy working environment at B&B restaurants. According to staffers, he was instrumental in fostering a “boys’ club” culture that was permissive of sexual misconduct and supportive of a party-like atmosphere. In fact, one employee quoted in an Eater NY report considered Batali and Bastianich “two peas in a pod.”

Following the accusations against Batali, Bastianich remained at the head of the restaurant group. Although he claimed he never heard the accusations of misconduct, Eater NY reported that he did admit he had heard Batali say “inappropriate things” and that he “should have done more” to stop it. With Bastianich, and his family members, still in seats of power in the new restaurant group, are they doing more now to prevent bad behavior?

• What culture changes and safeguards to protect employees have been implemented?

We have had systematic policies and training about sexual harassment for over 10 years, including a detailed procedure for employees to report complaints to senior management. Every employee receives our employee handbook when they are hired and regularly thereafter, and the policy explains how employees can report complaints.

In addition, one year ago we made a significant improvement: if employees have claims they want to make against any corporate officers or owners, they may contact our outside investigatory firm, which has discretion to independently investigate complaints and report to outside counsel.

We have also made significant changes to our HR team and brought in an industry veteran in HR to supplement our team, train employees, and handle employee concerns. There have been a number of other changes that we are proud of and we continue to look for new and innovative ways to empower our team and support our company.

• What staffing changes have been made? Have there been new roles created or positions been eliminated? Have management structures changed to facilitate a healthier work environment?

Tanya is taking the lead on day-to-day operations, working closely with Joe and the rest of the operations team to support the restaurants behind the scenes. Tanya also joins Joe, Nancy, and Lidia overseeing corporate strategy, culture, talent development, finances, and other important issues.

As noted, in the last year and one half, we have also made significant changes to our HR team and brought in an industry veteran in HR to supplement our team, train employees, and handle employee concerns.

• Are there new policies around sexual misconduct and harassment? What are they?

See above.

• What hiring practices have changed?

We have always been an equal opportunity employer.

• What is being done to remedy Joe Bastianich’s past history of complicity with Batali’s behavior and role in allowing the B&B work environment to be toxic?

Joe has dedicated the last year to directly supervising the restaurants and taking care of our teams and guests and focusing on growth.

Here is the statement that Joe previously gave Eater on this topic. If you’re going to report this issue, please use this statement attributable to Joe:

“While I never saw or heard of Mario groping an employee, I heard him say inappropriate things to our employees. Though I criticized him for it from time to time, I should have done more. I neglected my responsibilities as I turned my attention away from the restaurants. People were hurt, and for this I am deeply sorry.”

• How is Joe Bastianich being held accountable as a leader going forward given the lessons learned with Batali?

No further comment.

• Were Nancy Silverton and Lidia Bastianich given bigger financial stakes in the company given their elevation to “partner” in the new company? What is Tanya Manuali Bastianich’s stake? What is the extent of their operational power? Do all four partners have equal stakes?

We are not getting into an individual owner’s stakes. However, this information is inaccurate.

Each restaurant is its own business, so the ownership of each varies somewhat from restaurant to restaurant. Tanya and Joe have shares in all of the restaurants in which Mario had interests. As noted above, Tanya is taking the day-to-day lead on operational matters.

Nancy and Lidia already have ownership interests in some of the restaurants, and substantial roles helping oversee all of the restaurants that were subject to the divestment.

We are thrilled that Melissa Rodriquez and Jeff Katz have become partners in Del Posto. Their incredible talent and creativity is why Del Posto is world-class. It’s the only four-star Italian restaurant in New York. We want Melissa and Jeff to share in the success of the restaurant that they drive and lead.

• What’s the breakdown on ownership in all the restaurants? Does the overall prior ownership structure remain similar to the prior arrangement? What is the relationship between the restaurants and the forthcoming restaurant group? Who else besides these partners have stakes in each restaurant in the group?

We’re not discussing ownership specifics.

Mario Batali Gives Up All His Restaurants [NYT]
Mario Batali Steps Away From Restaurant Empire Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations [ENY]

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