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Vera Bradley CFO resigns

Exit agreement terms outlined; VP takes over

The financial head of Vera Bradley Inc. has departed the manufacturer on short notice.

Jeffrey Blade has resigned as chief financial and administrative officer, the Fort Wayne-based company announced late Friday afternoon.

Terms of his exit agreement suggest possible problems between the executive and management, a local attorney said.

Blade has promised in writing not to apply for a job with Vera Bradley in the future. Or, as Doug Powers put it: “to never darken this door again.”

“This tells me there’s some bad blood here,” he said.

Powers, who is of counsel with Beckman Lawson, practices employee benefits law.

He doesn’t do work for Vera Bradley or own any company stock – unless shares are a small part of an independently managed mutual fund. Powers said the contract clause isn’t standard – but it isn’t unusual either.

“I think it’s a reasonable inference that this relationship has broken down in a pretty fundamental way,” he said.

Blade submitted his resignation Monday; it was effective Friday.

Vera Bradley, which employed about 2,200 companywide as of late last year, launched an initial public offering of stock in October 2010.

Blade joined the company during run-up to transition from private to publicly held company.

The company designs, makes and sells quilted cotton handbags, luggage, accessories and home décor.

Blade’s employment offer letter, dated May 2, 2010, specified he’ll be paid $376,099 in lump-sum severance within 30 days of his resignation, according to a company filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Blade also will receive a pro-rated share of his fiscal 2013 annual bonus.

The company’s fiscal year ends in late January.

In addition, Blade will be paid $62,200, an amount over what Vera Bradley was contractually required to pay.

Powers said separation contracts typically include an extra payment to justify adding new terms to the previously agreed on exit terms.

If Blade violates the terms, he’ll have to pay Vera Bradley $50,000, plus legal fees, the filing said.

The company has named Kevin Sierks as interim CFO while it searches for a replacement.

Sierks is Vera Bradley’s vice president, controller and chief accounting officer.

When it comes to top-level management, Powers said, “you’re typically dealing with very strong personalities” that can disagree vehemently on various topics.

At a glance

In exchange for more than $435,000 in severance and other payments from Vera Bradley Inc., Jeffrey Blade has agreed:
•Not to sue Vera Bradley or its officers;
•Not to allege discrimination;
•Not to criticize the company publicly;
•Not to compete with the company or hire away Vera Bradley employees for at least one year;
•Not to reveal company secrets;
•Not to ask for his job back.
Source: Filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission

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