A wake-up giftpak from Harry & David

Jeff Golden

Picture 8 Those of us who've lived in the Rogue Valley for a long time have a common experience: travel anywhere outside the Northwest, say you're from the Medford area, and someone within earshot is likely to say "Oh, yeah, Harry & David. Love those pears (or chocolates or Moose Munch). H&D, formerly Bear Creek Corporation, is our local business icon, about like Nike is to metro Oregon. The historical tale is warm & fuzzy, with Samuel Rosenberg trading his Seattle Hotel in 1910 for 240 prime acres of pears on Bear Creek, then passing it on to sons Harry & David (who replaced "Rosenberg" with "Holmes " to better fit in down here). The family owned and grew the company until the 1980s, when it became meat for a series of multinational corporate buy-outs, most recently by Wall Street LBO firm Wasserstein & Co in 2004.

None of the ownership shuffles drew much attention until last week, when Wasserstein canned the popular local CEO of 20 years. Which offered a fine opportunity to invite readers to reflect on how corporate leveraged buyouts affect communities like ours. This column drew more "Amen, brother"s than any I've written in a year or more.

There's opportunity here, Moments like this make clear the hurt corporate capitalism is putting on local communities, and you don't have to be progressive to see it.

What do you think?

Comments

  • Zarathustra is my real pseudonym (unverified)
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    On an earlier thread we were just saying how corporate take-overs have more to do with eliminating honest business from the market than about increasing market share. The mantra of best practices corporatism seems to be to leave the consumer no choice, and gets much more attention than any kind of competition. That's what stinks most about the banks bail-out, is that it has allowed even more consolidation, and elimination of honest, smaller banks from the marketplace.

    However you want to cut their brand of capitalism, it's undeniably un-American to base your polices on denying free choice.

    Does this mean we will be seeing "Royal Riviera Pears" at Safeway?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Wake up and smell the roses (pun intended) Jeff. bill Williams is an elitist who had way outstayed his worth with Harry and David. He is only the first of many overpaid executives who should be leaving the company.

  • Rob (unverified)
    (Show?)

    More reporting on the company plans to cut down the orchards for home sites.

  • Bill Wilkinson (unverified)
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    Does this mean we will be seeing "Royal Riviera Pears" at Safeway?

    <hr/>

    Posted by: Rob | Feb 17, 2010 10:19:25 AM

    More reporting on the company plans to cut down the orchards for home sites.

    Silly billy! It means you will be seeing Safeway pears in H&D gift baskets.

    more to do with eliminating honest business from the market

    Now we're getting to the meat! It's about eliminating choice up and down the line. I remember my first H&D gift basket. I had just taken a job locally, and were about to relocate. I knew little about Oregon. It wasn't just a thank you gift for signing, it was a statement about how Oregon is different. With that out of the way, other states look more like Oregon. That means less reason to choose Oregon. That means more, "well, it's the same everywhere, might as well follow the money", and biggest business has once again competed against better practices by leaving the consumer no choice.

    <h2>It's time to reform trademarks and copyright legislation!!! We have lots of regs protecting trademarks. Civil law has enshrined "look and feel" considerations as part and parcel of that law. Corporate trademarks should be treated as no different from any other intellectual property. Michael Jackson bought the intellectual property rights to the Beetle's works. Does that mean he could release a new tune, and advertise it as "by the Beatles"? So, why can a totally new H&D put out a catalog and label it "Harry and David"? </h2>

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