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Bear Creek shuffles corporate leadership

Company says changes won't affect operations

Shifts in the corporate landscape at Bear Creek Corp. mean an upward move for its top executive.

Bill Williams, president and CEO, leaves Bear Creek today to become chief operating officer of Yamanouchi Consumer Inc., a newly formed umbrella company that will oversee Bear Creek and Bear Creek's current owner, Shaklee Corp.

Nancy Tait, Bear Creek executive vice president and chief marketing officer, assumes Williams? former duties as president and CEO.

Shaklee's board of directors announced the organizational changes Tuesday. Bear Creek and Shaklee, a health and nutritional food manufacturer and direct-mail marketer, will operate independently under Yamanouchi Consumer Inc.

A third subsidiary, INOBYS Ltd., also will operate under the Yamanouchi Consumer umbrella. INOBYS, headquartered in Oakland, Calif., is a new business incubator in the nutritional supplement industry.

This is a major event for this company, said Bear Creek spokesman Bill Ihle. It's the first change in the senior level of management in 10 years.

Williams will probably divide his time between Medford and Shaklee's headquarters in Pleasanton, Calif., Ihle said.

Williams came to Bear Creek 12 years ago from Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas, where for five years he was senior vice president in charge of mail-order sales.

Williams will no longer oversee day-to-day operations of Bear Creek's mail-order fruit and gift businesses. But as Yamanouchi Consumer president, Williams will continue to supervise the company.

Tait will report to Williams, as will most Shaklee and INOBYS executives. Shaklee vice presidents Michael Beier and James Greene will report to Yamanouchi Consumer CEO Masakatsu Inoue, as will Williams.

Tait joined Bear Creek in 1987 after working for Eddie Bauer Inc. She was named executive vice president for sales and marketing in 1996 before becoming chief marketing officer in March.

Neither Williams nor Tait was available for comment Tuesday.

According to spokesman Ihle, however, a shift in Bear Creek's management structure won't mean changes in operations.

Bear Creek will continue to focus on its status as an employer of choice in the Rogue Valley as well as providing great gift products to customers worldwide, Ihle said.

All of the goals that we have built a solid reputation on aren't going to change, he added.

Bear Creek Corp., with estimated revenues of $500 million this year, owns Harry and David, the nation's largest direct-mail marketer of fruit and food gifts. It also owns Harry and David retail stores; Jackson & Perkins, supplier of roses and other garden products; Northwest Express catalog goods; and Jackson & Perkins Wholesale rose sales.

Bear Creek Corp.?s year-round Medford employment is about 1,200 and ranges as high as 5,000 during the holiday rush.

Bear Creek started in 1934 as a family business by Harry and David Holmes. It was taken public by the Holmes family. In 1984, it was acquired by R.J. Reynolds Corp. After R.J. Reynolds merged with Nabisco, Bear Creek was spun off to Shaklee in 1986.

Shaklee was acquired by Yamanouchi Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 1989. Yamanouchi is a 77-year-old drug company headquartered in Tokyo. It's Japan's third-largest pharmaceutical company and employs 9,000 worldwide.