(July 1) MONTEREY, Calif. — Shortly after arriving in Monterey to head the Pro*Act foodservice distribution network, produce industry veteran Steve Grinstead has cleaned off his desk.

Pro*Act announced June 30 that Grinstead resigned as president after Fresh Del Monte Inc., Coral Gables, Fla., served Grinstead with a restraining order claiming his work with Pro*Act violated a noncompete agreement.

“Pro*Act believes the injunction, served without warning and after Grinstead arrived in Monterey to begin his new duties, was completely unwarranted,” said Greg Yancey, Pro*Act’s chairman and president of Yancey’s Food Service Inc., Loveland, Colo.

Grinstead started at Pro*Act June 14.

As vice president of Del Monte’s central operations for North America from January to April 2003, he was in charge of fresh-cut and repacking operations after Del Monte bought Dallas-based Standard Fruit and Vegetable Co. Inc.
“We are obviously taken aback by this unfortunate development,” Yancey said, adding that Pro*Act has been a good customer of Del Monte.

“It is not immediately clear to us why Del Monte Fresh believes our employment of Grinstead was a competitive threat,” he said. “With Pro*Act’s business emphasis on foodservice operators and Del Monte’s on wholesale and retail, we did not see the competitive conflict.”

Jacqueline Bohmer, Del Monte’s communications manager, said the company has no comment.

After talks with lawyers representing both sides, Yancey said a protracted legal battle would make it impossible for Grinstead to fulfill his Pro*Act duties “for quite some time.”

Since Pro*Act wasn’t a party to the noncompete agreement, Yancey declined to comment on its duration or how it applied to Grinstead’s Pro*Act employment. Yancey added the time period is too long for Pro*Act’s current needs.

He said Pro*Act has begun negotiations with another individual the organization is ready to bring on board.

Grinstead, 45, declined comment.

Noncompete clause forces Grinstead out at Pro*Act