The CEO of a large catering company has put himself and his firm in a lot of trouble after a video showing him kicking a dog and yanking it into the air by the leash has surfaced.
Des Hague is the CEO of Centerplate, which contracts with large venues including sports arenas to provide food services. Centerplate appears to be a potential rival to Aramark, the firm that dominates the market. But the video showing Hague kicking and pulling the dog may threaten Centerplate’s steady climb, or at least delay it for a while.
The video, believed to be from July, shows Hague in the elevator of an apartment building in downtown Vancouver. He has a Doberman Pinscher on a leash, and as soon as the elevator doors close behind him, Hague begins to kick the dog repeatedly, then uses the leash to yank the dog into the air. Someone emailed the video to the British Columbia SPCA, which has taken the dog into custody and started an investigation into the incident.
The video exacted immediate consequences for Hague and the company. GlobalNews reported that people going into Vancouver's BC Place stadium for a football game said they wouldn't buy any food during the game and that the stadium should break off its contract with Centerplate.
"To see that fellow pull that dog and do that to that animal was an absolute disgrace," said one fan, John Kinney. "And it goes further than that -- the company that that gentleman worked for that's a black eye to everybody. That's a black eye to his friends and that's a black eye to society. Cruelty to animals is absolutely unacceptable. I'm not buying anything that this guy sells here -- it's a disgrace."
Hague has already tried to handle the problem with an apology issued through his attorney.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," Hague said. "This incident is completely and utterly out of character, and I am ashamed and deeply embarrassed. Under the circumstances of the evening in question, a minor frustration with a friend's pet caused me to lose control of my emotional response. Unfortunately, I acted inappropriately, and I am deeply sorry for that and am very grateful that no harm was caused to the animal. I have reached out to the SPCA and have personally apologized to the dog's owner. At this time, I would like to extend my apology to my family, company and clients, as I understand that this has also reflected negatively on them."
A lot of Hague's problems -- and by extension, those of Centerplate -- can be seen in that official apology. First, there's the problem of apologizing through his attorney, rather than stepping forward and trying to take personal responsibility. It seems like a very bureaucratic form of morality, and the bland, generic nature of the apology only strengthens the impression of someone who's going through the motions for the sake of the public.
Naturally, the company has tried to distance itself from the whole issue by putting out a statement that basically says it's all Hague's problem. "This is a personal matter involving Des Hague," the statement said. "Centerplate in no way condones the mistreatment of animals and since learning about the situation late Friday night ha[s] reached out to local authorities to better understand the facts and circumstances related to the incident. As this is an ongoing review, we cannot comment further at this time."
Nonetheless, as CEO, Des Hague is the public face of the company, and people identify him with Centerplate's corporate culture and ethics. Fortune Magazine quotes crisis management expert Steve Paskoff on the issue, and he sums up what a lot of other people are thinking: "My immediate reaction to this news was, this is a guy who will kick and drag a friend's dog -- what else is there to say about him? And if he treats defenseless dogs this way, how is he treating people? Is Centerplate going to be comfortable saying he represents our values, which state [on its website] that the company is 'a positive force in our communities?'"
Hague has deleted his Twitter account since the video came to light, but people continue to talk about the incident, using the hashtag #DesHague. Many of them ask variations of Paskoff's questions. Some speak in much harsher terms, demanding that he be fired. A few examples:
It's hard to imagine anyone wanting Hague for a friend, neighbor, or employer at this point. What do you think? Should Centerplate hold their CEO responsible for his behavior at home? Can he continue as CEO? And what does this say about them as a company?
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