How Steven Heyer went from gunning for the top spot at Coca-Cola to overseeing the gift basket retailer on its way to bankruptcy.
By Beth Kowitt, writer-reporter
FORTUNE - When Steven Heyer took over as CEO of Harry & David in February 2010, the private-equity firm behind the struggling fruit and food gift-basket retailer lauded him as having "unparalleled experience as a brand builder" and "tremendous strategic vision."
Heyer says that Ellis Jones, CEO of Wasserstein & Co., which purchased Harry & David in 2004, asked him to help turn the company around -- both executives had sat on the board of the investment bank Lazard. Jones gushed in a press release at the time that "Steve's proven track record of growing businesses by increasing consumer loyalty and customer demand makes him the ideal person to build on the iconic Harry & David brand."
It didn't quite work out that way. The company filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this week.
After only a year on the job, Heyer turned over the CEO title to Kay Hong, a turnaround and restructuring specialist at Alvarez & Marsal. Hong has also been named chief restructuring officer, while Heyer remains the company's chairman. Heyer says there was never the expectation that he would act as CEO for the long term, and that he was part of the decision to bring in Hong. Wasserstein and Harry & David both declined to comment. More
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