Ex-Harry & David executive files lawsuit

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

Drew Reifenberger, an executive vice president and chief customer officer, who was let go abruptly 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 received neither 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 a 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 the 12th floor of a Peachtree Road building in Atlanta. A letter to Heyer from his 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 deadline for Harry & David to respond came and went without an answer Tuesday. The suit alleges Harry & David has acted in bad faith and "has been stubbornly litigious," causing Reifenberger unnecessary trouble and expense.

Reifenberger didn't return phone messages, and his lawyers were not available for comment. Reached by telephone, Heyer said he couldn't comment on the matter.

Six days after firing 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.

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 interest payment of $7 million to bondholders looming.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.

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