After initially describing the emerging scandal as a “personal matter” that was being investigated, then later putting him on “indefinite probation,” Centerplate's Board of Directors announced on Tuesday that Hague had resigned.
The sudden departure of Hague from the helm of the multi-billion Connecticut-based company comes after he was caught on a surveillance video camera kicking and abusing a one-year-old Doberman Pinscher. The helpless dog -- named Sade -- cowered at Hague’s feet, then appeared to choke as he yanked at her chain, pulling her of the floor as the two rode an elevator in a high-rise luxury condo in Vancouver.
Though the abuse took place in July, once the tape was made public last month it went viral, sparking an outraged reaction that grew fast and furious.
“Fire Centerplate CEO Des Hague. Animal abusers should think about the implications when caught abusing an animal,” demanded Erica Perry, a self-described "animal lover" who initiated a petition for Change.org, the online petition group that describes itself as “the world’s platform for change.”
In a little more than a week more than 190,000 people had put their electronic signature on the petition.
Meanwhile, as the Change.org petition gained momentum, a wide range of disparate media giants -- organizations that would not usually cover the same topics -- provided heartbreaking and indignant reports of the abuse, stoking the growing crescendo of public outrage.
With Centerplate serving up the food and beverages to millions of sports fans at football stadiums, baseball parks and other venues across the country Sports Illustrated charged into the expanding media scrum. Its headline described Hague as being in the middle of a “despicable dog abuse scandal.”
And SI senior writer George Dohrmann -- a Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of a long list of journalism awards -- didn't just spell out the “5Ws” in his report about the abuse of the puppy at the hands, and feet, of Hague. Instead, he urged his readers to take action.
“Email Centerplate. Find them on Twitter and let them have it for continuing to employ Hague. Sign one of the online petitions circulating that demand he lose his job. If in the coming days Centerplate still employs Hague, find the team or stadium near you that has a contract with the company. Email or Tweet at them writing that you won’t patronize an organization working with Centerplate. The sad reality is the company will employ Hague until he becomes a potential drain on its bottom line. Make that so,”” Dohrmann wrote.
And with Centerplate producing about $6 billion in annual revenues by operating, according to its website, “over 300 premier event venues across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom,” including the gleaming new Levi’s Stadium -- the new home of the San Francisco 49ers -- even the venerable Fortune Magazine joined in the coverage. Its report asked in a headline, “Will a dog-abuse scandal sink stadium caterer Centerplate?”
Well, with the departure of its CEO, Centerplate is still afloat. But its former top executive has been left to fend on his own in a sea of public outrage.
“We want to reiterate that we do not condone nor would we ever overlook the abuse of animals,” said Joe O’Donnell, chairman of the board of directors for Centerplate, in the statement announcing Hague’s departure.
As for Sade, animal welfare officials say she is now in “good hands.”