United Furniture baron David Belford, who fired all his workers, founded charity for sick kids

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The owner of United Furniture Industries has been noted for his philanthropic efforts in past years — even as he has landed in legal scraps and contentious bankruptcy proceedings, according to news reports and court documents.

David Belford — who made headlines last week for abruptly yanking jobs and health insurance for his 2,700 workers — founded a charity for sick children and donated $10 million to establish a spinal cord injury research center at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center — a Columbus, Ohio facility named after Victoria’s Secret’s billionaire founder, Les Wexner.

In 2008, he established the Belford Family Charitable Fund, which supports children’s organizations including Flying Horse Farms, a camp for ill children that he and his wife, Jenni, co-founded. He is listed as the founder and owner of the camp along with his investment firm Stage Capital.

Jenni and David Belford at an event at their non-profit camp, Flying Horse Farms.
Flying Horse Farm

At the same time, Belford has been named in lawsuits and bankruptcy proceedings alleging that he’s been involved in “fraudulent transfers” of monies and “brazen violations” of non-compete agreements, according to court documents.

Last year, American Freight — a discount furniture company that his brother Steve founded 28 years ago and later sold  – sued Belford, alleging that he stole trade secrets and violated non-compete agreements after being bought out by its new owner for $15 million. His investment firm, Stage Capital and a company he owned – Surplus Freight – were also named in the complaint, as was American Freight’s former CEO, Asaph Rink.

Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
The Belford family donated $10 million to establish a spinal cord injury research center at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
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American Freight alleged that Belford and Rink “poached” its employees and began systematically opening Surplus Freight furniture stores – which had previously been located in Canada – in the US and in key American Freight markets.

“Surplus Freight and its stores are nearly carbon copies of American Freight’s stores,” according to the complaint.

The litigation was eventually settled.

Jenni Belford
Jenni Belford co-founded Flying Horse Farms, a camp for ill children, with her husband, David.
Flying Horse Farm

Belford was also involved in a liquidation bankruptcy case in 2005 of a discount furniture and bedding chain called Nationwide Warehouse and Storage, LLC. The trustee for Nationwide Warehouse was seeking to recover $35 million from Belford in an “adversary proceeding,” alleging that Belford received the $35 million in “fraudulent transfers,” according to court documents.

The trustee for Nationwide Warehouse also brought a separate adversary proceeding against United Furniture Industries.

The case was also settled in a “compromise settlement,” according to court documents and it’s not clear whether Belford had to pay anything.

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