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Des Hague and Centerplate Learn a Simple Lesson: Abusing Dogs is Bad for Business

Centerplate tried to distance themselves from the controversy around a video that showed their CEO abusing a friend's dog. It didn't work. Yesterday, they announced that they were firing him.

Chris Hall  |  Sep 3rd 2014


Des Hague is going to have to find a new job. Until yesterday, Hague was the CEO of Centerplate, a catering company that contracts with large entertainment complexes like sports stadiums and convention centers. Hague has been largely responsible making Centerplate into a potential challenger to Aramark, the market leader. But after a video surfaced showing him repeatedly kicking a friend’s dog and pulling it into the air by the leash, Hague quickly became a liability to the company, rather than an asset.

Yesterday, Centermark announced that Hague was stepping down, and that an interim CEO and President had been appointed.

Chairman of the Board Joe O’Donnell said in a press release: “We want to reiterate that we do not condone nor would we ever overlook the abuse of animals. Following an extended review of the incident involving Mr. Hague, I’d like to apologize for the distress that this situation has caused to so many; but also thank our employees, clients and guests who expressed their feelings about this incident. Their voices helped us to frame our deliberations during this very unusual and unfortunate set of circumstances.”

For thousands of people who don’t keep up on the inner workings of catering corporations, the first they ever heard of Des Hague was that he was the guy who was videoed kicking his friend’s dog in an Vancouver elevator. Once they heard that, they told other people and no one forgot it. The Twitter tag #DesHague rapidly filled with people expressing their anger at Centermark and Hague, and calling for his resignation. A petition on Change.org gained over 150,000 supporters. Eventually, Centerplate had to listen.

O’Donnell’s claim that the company is “grateful” for the people who spoke up seems a little hard to believe, considering how hard Centerplate tried to avoid claiming any responsibility for Hague’s behavior. Initially, the company tried to brush off the incident and claim that it was none of their business. Their first response expressed regret about the incident, but called it “a personal matter” which had nothing to do with them. That didn’t sell with the public, and the company was forced to slowly escalate its response.

On August 26, Centerplate released a statement saying that Hague had agreed to undergo anger management counseling; on August 27, the company announced that Hague had been put on probation, would donate $100,000 to an animal charity, and perform 1,000 hours of community service. None of that stemmed the outrage. After all, Hague was the most public face of the company, the single person most identified with its ethos and brand.

If he was so abusive to a dog, especially one that showed no sign of aggression or fighting back, how would he treat the people who worked for him? That kind of question was only sharpened by the fact that Hague’s abuse of the dog didn’t appear to end in the elevator. The Vancouver Sun reported that when the SPCA came to take the dog from Hague’s apartment, they found her in a crate that stank of urine, with food and water out of reach.

And so, Centerplate told Des Hague to take a walk. It’s a good decision, and the right one, but they should have taken responsibility much more promptly. It should take a while to for Centerplate to get the stench of dog abuse off their food.

Via Fortune, Vancouver Sun, and Washington Post

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