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1-800-Flowers dumps Harry & David execs

The promised integration of Harry & David into 1-800-Flowers.com following the holiday selling season came quickly and forcefully Tuesday as CEO Craig Johnson and at least three other top executives were axed.

"We did make some changes effective Tuesday," 1-800-Flowers.com spokesman Joe Pititto said Wednesday. "Harry & David will now be reporting directly to David Taiclet, president of the Gourmet Food and Gift Baskets Division. Craig Johnson is leaving by mutual decision."

According to an internal memo, Vice President of Human Resources Pam Turay has also departed, while Chief Financial Officer Michael Schwindle and Chief Information Officer Charles Hunsinger were told their jobs would end in the next couple of months.

All three were part of Johnson's leadership team at Musician's Friend prior to coming to Harry & David and have been through the corporate shuffle before. Bain Capital shuttered Musician's Friend's Medford operation and merged it into Guitar Center's California office.

Harry & David Holdings emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2011, and Johnson took the helm shortly afterward and installed his team. The Carle Place, N.Y.-based floral, gourmet food and gift company acquired Harry & David Holdings last September.

Last October, 1-800-Flowers.com CEO Jim McCann spoke in glowing terms of Johnson and the local management team.

"The reason why we got more interested this time and the reason we're so excited about merging these companies is that the company has been fixed by a talented management team," McCann said at the time. "It's not like it was in the past when we would say, 'Are we up to this task? Are we up to cleaning this whole thing up and righting this ship?' That's already been done, and that's what made it palatable for us. The recession punched us in the nose and clearly had an impact on Harry & David. We're both doing much better now."

Apparently that sentiment has changed, although 1-800-Flowers had no comment on the reasons for the ousters.

"As a company policy, to respect the privacy of all our associates, both current and former, we do not comment on personnel matters," Pititto said.

The parent company issued a statement that shed little light on the changes.

"As we launch the integration of Harry & David, we are increasingly excited by the opportunities to accelerate growth across our entire enterprise by leveraging our combined assets, experience and skill sets," it read.

Pititto said Taiclet will be "on the ground" in Medford working with the existing team at Harry & David for some time going forward, after which he will be in Medford frequently.

"We may add a new brand leader at some point in time who would report directly to Dave," Pititto said. "Similar to the structure we have with all of our other gourmet food and gift-basket brands."

A phone message to Johnson was not returned.

Jackson County Commissioner Doug Breidenthal said the move was unexpected.

"I thought they were doing a good job, so it kind of surprises me that it happened," Breidenthal said. "I couldn't speak to why, there could be other circumstances no one knows. It could be as simple as they wanted to bring in their leadership."

He said he's glad that Harry & David remains a large employer in the area.

"It's not unsettling to me," Breidenthal said. "I've seen a lot stranger things happen involving corporations."

Taiclet is a former Army infantry captain who earned degrees at Notre Dame and Harvard. He was co-founder and co-owner of Alpine Confections, which he grew to $120 million in sales in 10 years. Alpine Confections was named Candy Industry Magazine’s “Manufacturer of the Year” in 2005. In May 2006, 1-800-Flowers acquired his holding company, Alpine Confections Inc., and two of the five Alpine subsidiaries, Fannie May Confections and Harry London Candies

He now oversees more than 2,000 manufacturing plant and distribution facility employees for Harry & David, Fannie May Fine Chocolates, Harry London, Cheryl’s, The Popcorn Factory, Stockyards, DesignPac Gifts and 1-800-Baskets.com.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

Craig Johnson