June 9, 2007 by

Harvey Weinstein


Categories: Business

Harvey J. Weinstein, the former CEO of a tuxedo manufacturing company who was once kidnapped and buried alive, died on May 13. Cause of death was not released. He was 82.
Born in Brooklyn, Weinstein was the son of Emanuel Weinstein, who co-founded the clothing company Lord West Formal Wear in the 1940s with his partner Al Westreich. Harvey enlisted in the Marines at 18, and fought at Iwo Jima during World War II. Upon his return to the states, he earned a degree from the University of North Carolina, then joined the family business.
Over the next five decades, Lord West grew into one of the largest formal wear manufacturers in the United States. The company produced 100,000 tuxedos a year, some under the company name and others for Ralph Lauren, Robert Stock and Pierre Cardin. As CEO of Lord West for 24 years, Weinstein became known as “The Tuxedo King,” but all of his employees affectionately referred to him as “Mr. Harvey.” He also founded Tuxacco, a Pennsylvania company that produced and imported formalwear accessories.
Weinstein was admired by his colleagues and friends, but envied as well. On Aug. 4, 1993, Fermin Rodriguez, who sewed pants at the Lord West factory in Queens, his brother Francisco Antonio Rodriguez and a man named William Rivera accosted Weinstein as he left a local diner. They forced him into a car at knifepoint, placed a hood over his head and wrapped a wire metal noose around his neck.
The kidnappers drove to Manhattan and stashed Weinstein inside a 8-foot-deep, barrel-shaped pit located just north of the 158th St. exit of the Henry Hudson Parkway. They shackled his legs, right arm and waist to the wall and covered the top of the crypt with a 100 lb. steel plate weighted down by cinderblocks, wood and dirt.
Weinstein remained in that dank hole for 12 days, with only a couple pieces of fruit and some water for sustenance. In total darkness, the 6-ft. 2-in. businessman managed to free himself from the metal bonds and feel his way around the tomb, which was about 5 feet wide by 5 feet long. Although the kidnappers had tossed in a blanket for him to sleep on, the room was too narrow for him to lie down.
While Weinstein was buried alive, wondering if he’d ever see daylight or his family again, a massive manhunt was launched throughout New York City. As hundreds of officers searched for the missing executive, the kidnappers and their accomplices — two men and Fermin’s girlfriend Aurelina Leonor — called his family and business over 50 times to demand $3 million. To prove he was still alive, the kidnappers recorded his voice several times, and once lowered a cell phone into the hole so he could beg his children to pay for his release.
Weinstein’s sons twice attempted to pay the ransom with duffel bags filled with $50 and $100 bills, but the kidnappers didn’t show up at the drop-off points. Then on Aug. 16, 1993, Fermin collected a bag filled with ransom money left near Highbridge Park in Manhattan, and met up with his brother. When the siblings failed to make contact with the family or release Weinstein three hours later, as promised, police arrested them and retrieved the cash.
Two NYPD detectives found Weinstein in the well-camouflaged crypt near the Hudson River that same day. After hearing his faint cries for help, Detective William Mondore and Detective Reuben Santiago dug through six inches of dirt and debris, removed the steel plate covering the top of the crypt ande pulled Weinstein to safety. Weinstein’s first words were: “Thank God you’re here, and I’d like to have a cigarette.” Relieved to know the businessman was still alive, Det. Mondore pulled out a pack of Newport Lights and lit one for Weinstein and one for himself.
All of the kidnappers and their accomplices were arrested. Fermin Rodriguez, who was the mastermind of the kidnapping plot, got 20 years to life with no chance of appeal or parole. His brother was found mentally incompetent to stand trial and hospitalized. Rivera, who held Weinstein at knifepoint and also worked at Lord West, received a sentence of 12-and-a-half to 37-and-a-half years. Victor Tejada, who made ransom calls to the family, plead guilty to second-degree kidnapping and got a sentence of 8-and-a-third to 25 years. Another man, who cooperated with prosecutors, received less than 3 years in prison. Fermin’s girlfriend Leonor was the only one to refuse a plea deal and go to trial; the jury convicted her after only three hours of deliberation. She received a sentence of 25 years to life for making 19 ransom calls and doing nothing to help the victim.
Weinstein emerged from his harrorowing experience 15 pounds lighter, but otherwise healthy. Although the criminals were brought to justice, he lamented the fact that two of his abductors were Lord West employees. Weinstein sold his share of Lord West to several partners and retired in 1999. The company is now known as Flow Formal Alliance LLC.

3 Responses to Harvey Weinstein

  1. Howard Sanders

    My father Sidney Sanders who passed on 3 years ago was an employee of Lord West. As a child growing up, he would take me into the West 23rd street location and I would help with inventory.. I remember Harvey as being one of the nicest guys. He would buy me lunch on those days.. I got to know him better as we played tennis together several times while my dad was working there. My heart felt condolences to his family.

  2. Gary Birenbaum

    I was sorry to learn the passing, of my former boss. What a Mensch !!! I was an employee of Lord West during the 80’s till 91′. Mr. Harvey, as he was affectionately known, was a no nonsense type of person, who also showed a warm rapport. I almost had to vision him as a boss, rather than an co-worker.
    Years later, I would run into him in the City, always swinging a tennis racquet.
    Woodside, Queens .

  3. John T. Nichols

    I’m sorry, after this long, to here of this. My father Horace was an employee and friend. My dad owned his own businesses untill he went to work for West Mill in the early 70’s. My father died in 1977 and Mr. Weinstein was there to give the eulogy.I grew up knowing him as a wise,kind,and one of the few people that my dad really respected. Kindest heart felt Regards, John T. Nichols

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *