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Marsh pilot says he flew former CEO to see mistresses

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Don Marsh’s personal pilot told jurors Monday morning that he ferried the former CEO of Marsh Supermarkets Inc. to New York City at least twice a month in a year’s span to visit one of his mistresses.

Pat Boggs began working for Marsh Supermarkets on a contract basis in 1995 and became the locally based supermarket chain’s chief pilot in August 2000, the same year he says he frequently flew Don Marsh to New York City.

Marsh’s trips, many of them via the company jet, are at the crux of a civil lawsuit brought by the supermarket chain. It accuses him of using company funds to pay more than $3 million in personal expenses. Marsh, 75, spent 38 years leading the public company before it was purchased by Florida-based Sun Capital in September 2006.

Don Marsh has testified that he put Nadia Kovarskaya up in a New York City apartment as he considered whether Marsh Supermarkets should sponsor a U.S. tour of her Russian ice ballet.

Boggs told jurors that he flew Marsh to see Kovarskaya at least twice a month during 2000, and shuttled her to Indianapolis once. Kovarskaya is listed among the dozens of witnesses expected to testify, either in person or by written deposition, in the trial expected to conclude at the end of the week. The federal court proceedings began Feb. 4.

The pilot also testified that he flew Marsh to Smyrna, Tenn., about five times. Though Boggs said he didn’t know the reason for the trips, Marsh has testified he frequently visited an old high school friend there with whom he also had an affair. He also has admitted to at least two other flings.

Becky Foxworthy, Don Marsh’s former travel manager, also testified Monday morning. She left the company in September 2006, after the sale to Sun Capital.

Sun Capital terminated Don Marsh’s contract “without cause” when it took over, then stopped paying his severance in 2008, after it claims it discovered the extent of personal expenses charged to the company.

Don Marsh is countersuing Marsh Supermarkets, asserting the company improperly halted his post-retirement payouts in 2008 and owes him more than $2 million.

Also testifying Monday morning was Patricia Allen, a current Marsh employee who once served as the administrative assistant to Marsh’s son David. He worked under his father as president.

Marsh Supermarkets launched a legal fight against David in 2006 after he sued the company, alleging it shorted him $102,000 on his $2.1 million severance package. The company shot back that he had used the company “as his personal checkbook,” submitting expenses from family trips, and must repay more than $750,000. The parties reached a confidential settlement in 2007.

Monday morning’s proceedings followed testimony from a key witness Friday.

Stephen Huse, an owner of St. Elmo Steakhouse and former director of Marsh Supermarkets, said Friday that he recalled that Don Marsh had resisted a sale to Sun Capital, even though the company was in serious financial trouble.

“We couldn’t get his focus on the sale as much as we wanted to, and his travel was too much,” Huse said. “We needed him there seven days a week, 13 to 14 hours a day.”

As the sale of the company neared, directors attempted to reel in Marsh’s extensive travel by only reimbursing him for trips within Indiana and to Illinois and Ohio, where Marsh had stores.

During his testimony, Huse said he has the utmost respect for Marsh and trusted him to reimburse the company for personal expenses. He said directors were more concerned about company revenue and profits and left management to oversee expenses.

Huse told the jury that most every trip Marsh took included some element of business.

“Don didn’t lay around beaches or go to bars,” Huse said. “Don can’t relax. It’s not in his DNA. That’s just the way he is.”

Originially published in the IBJ Daily, a sister publication to Indiana Lawyer.

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