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Craig Miller Wants To Run For U.S. Senate In Florida, And Why You Should Care


Yes, yes. This is a Louisiana blog. And while we ramble all over the place and talk about things like prairie chickens in Kansas or some guy’s junk in New York or Dutch dudes on trial for saying mean things about Muslims, we try to chiefly discuss topics of interest to the majority of our readers who reside – literally or spiritually – in the Bayou State.

So why do we give a damn who’s running for the U.S. Senate out of Florida? Outside of the understandable swooning when somebody like Mario Rubio comes along, that is.

Well, today Craig Miller says he’s running.

Who the heck is Craig Miller?

He’s this guy

It was the steakhouse that Ruth built, a New Orleans institution that sizzled over the past four decades not just as a tourist favorite but also as a popular hangout for local politicians and the city’s movers and shakers.

But on Aug. 31, not long after the levees burst in New Orleans, the top executives of Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse gathered here in the lobby of the Orlando Embassy Suites for an hourlong, soul-searching meeting.

“It was probably one of the toughest decisions that I ever had to make: to tell my people that we are not going back,” said Craig Miller, the veteran chief executive of Ruth’s Chris.

Miller’s “tough decision” came pretty much at the same time the Coast Guard was plucking people off rooftops blocks away from the first restaurant Ruth Fertel built on Broad Street. And as a result of his “tough decision,” a great New Orleans brand is now a restaurant company based in…Orlando. That world-famous culinary mecca. Miller was so wrenched by the decision that it took all of an hour to make it.

Actually, that’s crap. He was plotting to pull Ruth’s Chris out of the New Orleans area even before the storm hit. Katrina was a pretext, that’s all.

Hours before Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, Miller and Geoffrey Stiles, the company’s chief operating officer, flew with their spouses to Orlando, where each also owns a home. Eventually they established a makeshift communications center in Miller’s condominium and contacted their senior management team, asking them to come to Orlando to take on specified tasks.

With temporary office space secured in Orlando, the company hired brokers to scout for a more permanent home. After negotiating tax incentives from Seminole County economic development officials and seeking approval from their board, by Sept. 2 they had the keys to a fully furnished 21,000-square-foot corporate office and training center. This week, they were putting up post-it notes with managers’ names on the doors.

When he moved the chain out of the Big Easy – their headquarters was actually in Metairie; it’s not like the place was under six feet of water, though their building did have some pretty bad roof damage – the Fertel family was apoplectic. “My mother would never have done that,” Ruth’s son Randy, who runs the family’s charitable foundation, was quoted as saying. And others in the New Orleans restaurant community, who didn’t leave, panned the move as well.

“When they give you a start, you kind of owe it to the city,” said Brad Brennan, a member the family that owns Brennan’s Restaurant and Commander’s Palace, a small chain with all three of its restaurants in New Orleans. Brennan vows to return as soon as he can. “Payback is staying your ground,” he said, “and employing the people that want to remain there and want to be employed.”

Many of the folks whose gastronomic dollars helped launch the chain out of New Orleans were similarly disposed.

Miller, of course, lasted about  three more years as the CEO of the company he yanked out of its roots (and changed the name of as well), but in 2008 after the stock market did to Ruth’s Chris’ stock what Katrina did to New Orleans he got yanked himself. And promptly squealed like a stuck pig about it.

Naturally, a failed business executive would want to get into politics. So Miller launched a campaign in 2010 against Democrat Congresswoman Suzanne Kosmas. He spent $560,000 of his own money on that race and came in third in the GOP primary.

Now, Miller wants to run for the Senate.

“There’s no game changer in the race,” Miller told TheDC. “I’m a different candidate than the other people in the race. I’m not a career politician… I’m a business person.”

Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, State Rep. Adam Hasner and former Charlie Crist-appointed U.S. Senator George LeMieux are the other Republicans in the field so far. The Democrat is the incumbent Bill Nelson, who is ripe for the picking in a state where the Dems are imploding quickly.

Don’t know much about any of the other GOP challengers. They’re all better than Miller. He’s a soulless bastard who trashed a great Louisiana brand, and as it turned out he wasn’t such a smart numbers guy after all.


5 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Louisiana was not known as a corporate HQ magnet back then, especially the New Orleans Metro Area, and slightly better today in that it is not as much a repellant.

  2. Guest says:

    CitizenKH, New Orleans was a much better HQ for Ruth’s than Orlando was and still is.  It’s lack of soul and culture really destroyed what Ruth Fertel, the company’s founder, built.  The move to Orlando by Miller had nothing to do with focusing on what was best for Ruth’s.  It was very personal and self-serving for himself.  Speak to anyone who worked for Ruth’s HQ at the time of Katrina and you will get the same story.

    Dispite little damage to the company’s Metairie office, Miller was telling stories in Orlando of how it was totaly destroyed and even though there was no flooding in the building, he spoke about going to the building in a boat and have to go in through the roof (a three story building.)

    Given that lies come easy to Miller, he would make a great politician for either party.

  3. Dustin says:

    All corporations, even restaurants, change as they grow in units.  Ruth’s was eventually going to change.  It was terrible they left NO.  They became a publicly traded company and lost what a private company offers.  It’s easy to blame Miller for these events.  Ruth should have sold to an individual that would always keep the company private and serve her life long interests.  However, once you sell out to the open market, you open the company to many changes that a lot of people might not agree with.

  4. Jason Boyne says:

    Craig Miller is a failed businessman and thank you for stating it plainly. As Ruth’s Chris was closing locations and in big financial trouble as a result of Miller overspending and creating massive debt he was in the middle of trying to buy a corporate jet of all things when the board fired him. In the House campaign, he kept saying he created thousands of jobs which is such a lie – he destroyed so many jobs and ran an American brand into the ground. Souless is the right word. narcissistic would be the second way to describe Craig Miller

  5. Jon Morrison says:

    Craig Miller: “I will solve the jobs problem by hiring everyone to work at Red Lobster, Pizzeria Uno and Ruth’s Chris restaurants chains.”

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