Personal nurse sues former Heinz CEO Anthony O'Reilly

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An Allegheny County nurse sued former H.J. Heinz Co. chairman and CEO Anthony J.F. O'Reilly Friday, claiming that he used her services for 15 years and backed out on promises of millions of shares of the company's stock.

According to the complaint in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh, Sabina Vidunas started as Mr. O'Reilly's personal nurse in 1995. He left Heinz in late 2000.

Ms. Vidunas' role later expanded, according to the complaint, to include planning and scheduling, as well as "duties which were unsavory" and "repugnant duties" which are not detailed in the complaint.

According to the complaint, Mr. O'Reilly paid Ms. Vidunas but also made multiple promises of Heinz stock which, he said, would be placed in trust until her role with him ended. "In 2010, O'Reilly told the Plaintiff that he had placed a total of 2,500,000 of these shares in trust for her until she ceased employment with him, at which time, these shares, as well as [other] Heinz shares described above, would be turned over to the Plaintiff," wrote attorneys Joel Sansone and Mel Vatz in the complaint.

Around 2011, according to the complaint, Ms. Vidunas was constructively discharged -- a legal term that usually means being pushed to resign. She then "made demand upon O'Reilly for the retirement account which O'Reilly had agreed to establish for the Plaintiff," the attorneys wrote, but he "has refused to turn over the account."

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of wage payment and collection laws, and demands lost wages, the promised stock, penalties of 25 percent of their value and attorney fees.

Mr. Sansone had no immediate comment. Mr. O'Reilly could not be reached for comment. H.J. Heinz Co. has no current relationship with Mr. O'Reilly and no means of contacting him, a spokeswoman said.

Mr. O'Reilly was widely credited with transforming Heinz into a global concern during his two decades at its helm.

Following his retirement, the reported billionaire relocated to estates in Ireland and France. He became a major investor in Ireland, was knighted in England, traveled and collected art.


Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or Twitter: @richelord.


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