Admirers and critics alike consider Michael Harrah, the Newport Beach real-estate developer who owns Original Mike’s Restaurant, one of Southern California’s most daring, colorful entrepreneurs. Harrah bought The Orange County Register headquarters in 2014 and this year attempted to lure Jeff Bezos’ $5 billion Amazon plant to Santa Ana. The 6-foot-6, thrill-seeking, white-bearded, Whittier native who would have you believe he’s worth north of $300 million and brags of owning “45 world-class corporations” is trying to erect Orange County’s largest edifice, the 493-foot-high One Broadway Plaza.
Though Harrah presents himself as a visionary, he must not have foreseen an oncoming courthouse mess. According to advancing lawsuits, including one filed by former bartender Lahna Beasley, the businessman not only tolerated alleged rampant sexual harassment by Jose Orozco, a busboy he named Original Mike’s manager, but he also operated “a fraud” to mask his corporate liabilities, dodged IRS taxes with fake revenue reports and even shortchanged customers by lamely pouring rotgut liquor into expensive brand bottles.