Former Harry & David exec files suit

A former Harry & David executive has filed a breach of contract suit against the company in federal court in Georgia.

Drew Reifenberger, an executive vice president and chief customer officer who was abruptly let go by Harry & David on Jan. 12, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on Wednesday. Reifenberger claims he was terminated without cause and under his contract should have received the equivalent of his $375,000 annual salary and health benefit continuation.

According to the suit, Reifenberger has neither received payments nor benefits since his departure and seeks a minimum of his salary and health benefits, plus interest.

Reifenberger, who lives in Atlanta, was part of cadre hired by Chief Executive Officer Steve Heyer when he was appointed by the Wasserstein & Co. board to lead the Medford-based gourmet food and gift company. Reifenberger worked at Harry & David's satellite office on the12th floor of a Peachtree Road building in Atlanta. A letter to Heyer from Reifenberger's lawyer, Michael J. King, hand-delivered on Monday asked whether "H&D intends to honor (its) commitment and the anticipated date of the delivery of the severance pay."

A Tuesday deadline for Harry & David to respond came and went without a response in court.

The suit alleged Harry & David has acted in bad faith and "has been stubbornly litigious," causing Reifenberger unnecessary trouble and expense.

Reifenberger didn't immediately return phone messages. King was out of the office when a reporter tried to reach him for comment and associate Amy Kelly was not immediately available.

Reached by telephone, Heyer said he couldn't comment on the matter.

Six days after terminating Reifenberger, Harry & David disclosed preliminary second-quarter 2011 and calendar 2010 financial figures, indicating a $57.6 million loss over the previous 12 months, following a $24.7 million loss during 2009. The company said it is out of compliance with its lender's terms and likely won't be able to tap into a $105 million credit line that was established in July.

Revenue from the make-or-break holiday quarter fell to $262 million from $267 million for the period ending Dec. 25. The company also said it had a negative cash flow of $17 million with a $66.9 million cash balance and $57.9 million in accounts payable with a March 1 interesting payment of $7 million to bondholders looming.

— Greg Stiles

Share This Story