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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

Category: Harry & David
March 28, 2011 at 10:15 AM

What a pair: Harry & David and Wall Street

Another legendary Pacific Northwest company in trouble, this time with Harry & David’s filing today for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A commenter on the New York Times site wrote, “Hairy & Dead. Who knew selling pears for 20 bucks a piece wasn’t a sustainable model?” And in a recession, at that.

But the story is more complicated and one doesn’t have to look far to find the hands of the Wall Street playerz. Medford, Ore.-based Harry & David hasn’t been a local firm for some time. In 2004, it was sold by Japan’s Yamanouchi to Wasserstein & Co., the private investment outfit founded by Wall Street deal titan Bruce Wasserstein. Its debt at the time was zero, but Wasserstein had added $200 million of debt by the time the Great Recession hit.

The New York Post reported in 2004: “Wasserstein & Co. is attracted to (parent) Bear Creek because of its strong, well-known brand names, such as Harry & David — by far the biggest name in direct marketing, food and gift products — and the company’s stable cash flow. But the company is currently experiencing only modest growth. Wasserstein & Co. seems to be betting it can change that.”

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