January 19th, 2011 | by MARK ZUSMAN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Business, CLEAN UP

Harry & David in Trouble

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A bit of bad news for the economy in Southern Oregon.

Harry & David, the Medford shipper of food and fruits, is looking to restructure the company in the face of severe losses. The company issued a statement yesterday announcing it had hired financial and legal advisers to help.

The company, which sells more than $400 million a year of comice pears, Moose Munch and other delights, has been for years Southern Oregon's largest employer and is a big buyer of agricultural products in that part of the state.

While the recession is certainly to blame, one can also argue that Harry & David's circumstances are a result of the casino economy.

Started by Harry and David Rosenberg in 1914, the privately held company has been sold several times. The most recent sale came in 2004 to investment bankers Wasserstein & Company and Highfields Capital Management (who bought it from a Japanese conglomerate). The owners borrowed heavily to purchase the company and then borrowed again to pay themselves back the down payment.

Meanwhile, the firm slashed payroll and trimmed benefits. The CEO was fired and replaced with someone who lives and works in Atlanta. Now the bonds (the company's debt) are considered junk and the fate of the company is unclear.
 
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