Hoffman declines Tegna board after valet incident

Hoffman declines Tegna board after valet incident
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Media attorney and consultant Adonis Hoffman has withdrawn a bid to be a board member for broadcast company Tegna, citing a conflict of interest and that CEO Dave Lougee assumed he was a hotel valet at an industry event.

The incident Hoffman had recalled, and which Lougee acknowledged in an SEC filing, happened in 2014 when he was seated at an industry dinner with Lougee. Though they had a significant discussion at the table, Hoffman said, after the event ended Lougee handed him his valet ticket thinking he was a hotel employee.

“The incident was a matter of principle as I thought about it if I was elected to a board and had to be in meetings with a man who I had interesting encounters with over the years,” said Hoffman, who is Black.

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Hoffman was initially nominated for the job in January but declined on March 3. His change of heart came during the hiring process as he realized that the job could be seen as conflicting with other work he does and also that he might have a problem working with Lougee.

“I’m not offended to have been considered a valet...” Hoffman explained. “What really took me back was him seeing people categorically. It wasn't that he thought I was a valet but just another brown skinned guy around whom he ascribed to that position.”

Lougee apologized for the incident in a letter sent to Tegna employees that was attached to the Tegna SEC filing. A Tegna spokesperson shared that filing in lieu of commenting on Hoffman’s withdrawal.

“Mr. Hoffman was understandably offended and upset,” Lougee wrote. “I immediately apologized to him and felt terrible. I don’t condone racism of any kind, I take full responsibility for this mistake, and am truly sorry for the pain I caused Mr. Hoffman.”

Despite the apology and what he said was a lack of animus towards Lougee, Hoffman said the incident would make working at the company untenable.

“I thought about it, and it’s not a recipe for a good working board relationship,” Hoffman said.

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In the filing both Lougee and the company reiterated their commitment to diversity and inclusion. 

“This unfortunate incident underscores just how important this work is for all of us,” Lougee added. “Tegna has taken specific actions to ensure our people, content, and company reflect the communities we serve, and we have established numerical goals to drive continuous improvement in the years ahead.”

Hoffman has worked as a media consultant and an attorney, according to a biography on his business website.

His resume includes stints as senior vice president and counsel at the American Association of Advertising Agencies and was chief of staff and senior legal advisor at the Federal Communications Commission for commissioner and interim chairman Mignon Clyburn.

Updated at 3:32 p.m.