Doggone it, this CEO is back in the C-suite.
Fallen food executive Des Hague has been hired to run a frozen food company, two years after a viral video exposing him abusing a small dog led to his resignation as CEO of top food concessionaire Centerplate.
The 48-year-old Hague, who pleaded guilty in connection to the incident, became an investor and chairman of the board several months ago of his new company Froozer. He was named CEO last week. Colorado-based Froozer sells tubes of frozen fruit and vegetables, an official snack of the U.S. speedskating team.
"I am fully invested in the Froozer brand and its potential," Hague said in a statement last week. His hiring was first reported by The Advocate newspaper in Stamford, Conn.,
In an interview with CNBC on Friday, Hague discussed his remorse over the incident with the dog, which he had kicked repeatedly and whose leash he had harshly yanked. He also talked about his desire to do good on the heels of that, his charitable endeavors and his enthusiasm about working with Froozer.
He noted that legendary investor Warren Buffett has been quoted as saying "it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."
"In my case, it was less than a minute in Vancouver two years ago," Hague said. "I made a dreadful mistake one night, but I believe it has not defined me, and I think I have the potential to do good."
"The last two years have been really painful. ... And the whole situation was self-inflicted," Hague said.
Hague said he was excited to identify an opportunity to invest in Froozer.
"I came across this healthy food that's good for athletes, kids and more. It's really simple and a great product," Hague said.
Hague said that one positive side effect from the case is the fact that "it has allowed me to spend more time recently with family and friends." He also said he's learned a lot about himself "from my mistake," and gotten healthier physically, acknowledging that the stress of running Centerplate "got to me."
Hague's Twitter feed shows him looking relaxed, and trimmer than his days at Centerplate. His Twitter bio calls him a "Dealmaker. Investor. Optimist. Philanthropist," and an "imperfect human being working to better myself."
This week, the Connecticut resident had updated his Twitter followers about a vacation in the Bahamas, where a photo Hague posted Thursday shows him swimming with pigs. Other recent images he posted show him feeding sharks and heading into the pricey sushi restaurant Nobu.
Froozer, in a statement emailed to CNBC, said, "We are delighted to have someone of Mr. Hague's caliber lead our organization."
"Our decision to engage Des was based on his experience, leadership qualities and prior business successes which speak for themselves," the company said. "Over a twenty-five-year period of leading global public and private companies, he has established himself as an innovative thinker in the international business world."
Froozer also cited the "significant amount of time and energy" Hague devotes to nonprofit charitable work and has helped raise more than $100 million over the past few years.
"This mirrors our corporate philosophy and was an important consideration for bringing Des on board, as opposed to an isolated, out-of-character incidence from the past," Froozer said. "In addition, we firmly believe that everyone deserves a second chance."
Hague's appointment as Froozer's top executive came a year after a Canadian judge fined him $5,000 and banned him from owning or controlling an animal for three years following his guilty plea to a single count of causing an animal to be in distress. The charge is the equivalent of a misdemeanor in the United States.
Hague had been charged by authorities after the emergence of an July 2014 surveillance video from a Vancouver hotel that showed him tormenting a 5-month-old Doberman pinscher named Sade in an elevator.
Hague is seen on the video repeatedly kicking the dog. He also pulled hard on her leash, to the extent that the pooch's paws left the floor of the elevator. Sade belonged to a friend of Hague's.
Disclosure of the video sparked a massive backlash against Hague and Stamford-based Centerplate, which provides food and beverage services to major sporting venues, arenas, convention centers and other locations across North America.
In addition to public outrage, Centerplate clients were concerned about the situation, including the San Francisco 49ers football team, which condemned Hague's conduct.
"I take full responsibility for my actions," Hague said in a statement at the time to the Canadian TV network Global News. "This incident is completely and utterly out of character and I am ashamed and deeply embarrassed."
On Friday, Hague told CNBC that before he got into the elevator with Sade, the dog had pulled on its leash so hard that it dislocated two of Hague's fingers."
"I wish I could have controlled the incident with the dog better," Hague said. "Jesus, I'm fallible. I'm human. I made a mistake. ... I lost my temper, and I regret that."
He also said, "I've replayed the incident time and time again." Hague said Sade's owner remains a friend of his.
Hague, who earned at least $4.7 million annually, originally agreed with Centerplate as a condition of his continued employment to undergo anger management counseling, donate $100,000 personally to an animal charity and do 1,000 hours of community service.
But the public relations furor continued unabated. Hague's resignation days later came after a change.org petition calling for his firing topped 150,000 signatures. His departure meant that he did not end up making the donation or performing the community service detailed by his agreement with Centerplate.
Hague pleaded guilty in February 2015 in the Canadian court to the charge of causing Sade distress.
At the sentencing two months later, the judge reportedly was told that Hague was taking prescription drugs for anxiety, and had alcohol in his system at the time he attacked the dog.
"Clearly, this is something I am very, very sorry about and I can assure the court these incidents will never happen ever again," Hague told the judge.
Within days of his sentencing, Hague joined the board of directors of the digital media solutions and signage company PING HD.
About a week later, Hague, whose web page identifies him as an "internationally renowned executive in the hospitality industry," launched a new investment and consulting company, Aegis.
Aegis since has made investments in The World of Beer, a beer specialist in Florida, as well as in William Caruso & Associates, a Denver-based design and consulting company, and in Froozer.
Last September, The Advocate reported that Hague, in an email to the newspaper, had said, "The past 12 months have been very difficult for me and my family.... Due to the incident with Sade I have lost income, received hate mail and death threats to myself and my family. My son was actually attacked."
After the dog debacle, Hague joined the board of directors of the Stamford Youth Foundation, a charitable group that works with kids in his hometown.
Marc Lyons, founder and president emeritus of the foundation, said he was glad that the group was able to give Hague "a second chance in life."
"Everybody is entitled to make a mistake," Lyons said of Hague, who is corporate donations chairman for the group. Lyons said Hague has "done a great job" at raising money for the foundation.
"He's impressed me," Lyons said.
Hague's Twitter feed in recent months shows him enjoying a globe-trotting lifestyle.
Photos that he posted on Twitter show him in Italy, France and the Bahamas, going on winery tours, taking cooking classes, visiting museums and sight-seeing at the Colosseum and Sistine Chapel at the Vatican, and a site of the D-Day landings in Normandy. One photo from late April shows him dining with the U.S. speedskating team.
At the end of 2105, Hague wrote an essay on LinkedIn entitled "Slaying Dragons — Thrive in 2016," which referred vaguely to his professional and legal woes due to the puppy-kicking scandal, and offered some advice to others who also have had troubles of their own.
"As the year closes out, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on the lessons learned over the last year and work on improving myself. The last year, I have faced more adversity than in the last decade," Hague wrote. "So my focus is on how to keep moving forward and being positive inspite (sic) of difficult times."
"It goes without saying that we have all had our dark moments. We have done and said things we have wished we had not and most likely acted out inappropriately or even very inappropriately," Hague wrote. "If you have not then you are one of the very lucky or sheltered ones."