Monday, May 26, 2008, 5/26/2008 06:35:00 PM

The Trade Secrets of Salad in a Package

By Todd
Chiquita apparently owns a subsidiary called "Fresh Express" and it developed the concept of "salad in a package." Well, Chiquita is alleging that key members of its packaged salad management team got a lot of cabbage to go elsewhere and now they're, em, dressing them down with a lawsuit for stealing key people and secrets.

The suit states the defendants were part of the management team at Fresh Express that "developed the packaged salad concept and became the No. 1 seller of packaged salads in the United States."

Chiquita said it "went to great lengths to retain them," including $150,000 to $280,000 bonuses, because of the "extraordinary amount of trade secret and proprietary knowledge" they gained in their jobs.

Chiquita alleges that after NewStar CEO Mark Drever, who is not named in the lawsuit, left the company in 2006 to run NewStar, NewStar "began raiding the ranks of Fresh Express' talent and knowledge."

With Drever at the helm, the suit alleges, plans "emerged to build a package salad industry within NewStar," which had no packaged salad business before Drever joined the company, according to the suit.

In February 2007, the same month OrganicGirl, which is part of NewStar, was registered as a corporation, the suit alleges Gallagher resigned from Fresh Express after receiving a $280,000 bonus to work at NewStar.

Once at NewStar, Gallagher along with Drever started to "transplant the old Fresh Express management team" to NewStar and OrganicGirl, the suit states. Over the next two months, Lemmon, Komar and Staehle left for NewStar and OrganicGirl, according to the suit.

Further, Chiquita alleges the defendants planned their resignations, and Lemmon and Staehle used their computers during their final week of employment to access confidential company information, including budgets, forecasts and trade secret files.

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