Centerplate Inc. president and chief executive Desmond Hague has resigned after he was caught on video in Canada abusing a dog in an elevator, the foodservice contractor said Tuesday.
The Stamford, Conn.-based concessionaire said chief operating officer Chris Verros has been named acting president and chief executive, effective immediately.
The move comes just days after Centerplate’s board issued Hague a written censure, putting him on indefinite probation and requiring him to donate $100,000 and spend 1,000 hours in community service to support animal welfare.
That response, however, was widely seen as a slap on the wrist, prompting a movement for Hague’s ouster through various social media channels.
News of Hague’s resignation was celebrated as a victory on Twitter and in other social media circles, but a new Change.org petition also emerged, calling for the British Columbian judicial system to prosecute Hague on animal cruelty charges to the fullest extent.
Fans called for a boycott of concessions at Centerplate stadiums, which include prominent sports venues like the Superdome in New Orleans, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, and the new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
Last week, some stadium operators also issued statements criticizing Hague’s behavior and suggested the incident might impact Centerplate’s future contracts.
On Tuesday, Centerplate’s board of directors said the call for Hague’s resignation came as a result of his “personal misconduct involving the mistreatment of an animal in his care.”
“We want to reiterate that we do not condone, nor would we ever overlook, the abuse of animals,” said Joe O’Donnell, chairman of Centerplate’s board.
“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,” O’Donnell added.
In 2012, Hague led the buyout of Centerplate with the company’s management and private equity firm Olympus Partners in a deal valued at $551 million.
A spokesman for Centerplate declined to respond to requests for information about any potential severance agreement.
Verros joined Centerplate in 2010 and is credited with helping the operator achieve unprecedented growth, the company said.
Prior to joining Centerplate, Verros was executive vice president of Boston Culinary Group, and before that served as a group president of Fine Host Corp., following the 1993 acquisition of FanFare Inc., a company he co-founded in 1986.
“I have been proud to work with Chris for more than 20 years, and feel that Centerplate is incredibly fortunate to have such a strong leader who can step into the role immediately,” O’Donnell added in the statement. “This past week has been very difficult for our company, our employees and our clients in particular, and I have no doubt that Chris’ experience, vision, integrity and commitment to our values and mission will help us all move forward together.”
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