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Standard General, the largest active shareholder of Tegna, is questioning the station group’s handling of an investigation into a 2014 incident where CEO Dave Lougee mistook a Black executive for a valet.
In a letter to the Tegna board, the investment group raised concerns over how much attention Tegna gave to the story and questioned how the incident could reflect deeper biases present in upper management. Earlier this month, Lougee apologized for the incident, which attorney and media consultant Adonis Hoffman first disclosed earlier this month when he withdrew his nomination to join Tegna’s board of directors.
Standard General said when it asked Tegna to launch a thorough, independent investigation into the incident, the company didn’t—and the group says Tegna’s review of the incident has been insufficient.
The letter says Hoffman’s experience raises serious concerns about racial bias in media leadership across the U.S. and points out the red flags it saw in Tegna’s investigation. They say:
- At no point did anyone speak to or reach out to Mr. Hoffman, the wronged party in this incident and in subsequent encounters with Mr. Lougee.
- At no point did Mr. Lougee offer an apology to Mr. Hoffman, which, subsequently, Mr. Lougee made false claims about.
- When asked by a media publication why the Board didn’t reach out to Mr. Hoffman, a “source close to Tegna” stated “Lougee had not disputed the incident, so the facts were not an issue. As to an offer to compensate Hoffman over the incident, the source said the company was convinced that did not happen.” That statement claims that no facts were in dispute and then proceeds to dispute those very facts. The board cannot know the facts without talking to the wronged party, which is why we are calling for this investigation.
- In Mr. Lougee’s letter to employees he suggests that he “ran into Mr. Hoffman and mistakenly thought he was a hotel valet.” However, per Mr. Hoffman’s account, which was released publicly, Mr. Lougee sat one seat away from Mr. Hoffman at the head table at an industry event and conversed with him over lunch immediately prior to the incident.
- Mr. Lougee’s recounting of the incident is inconsistent with how the event actually transpired and omits critical details provided by Mr. Hoffman.
Standard General also accused Tegna of “spreading false rumors” about the situation:
We also ask that Tegna cease spreading false rumors to the investment community and media that Standard General planned this occurrence. We did not know this incident had occurred when we nominated Mr. Hoffman and three other directors on January 21, 2021. Mr. Hoffman first notified us of the incident privately on February 23, 2021. Mr, Hoffman notified us he was withdrawing from consideration—and provided us his letter of withdrawal—at the same time he notified the Tegna Board on March 3, 2021. Attempts to portray Standard General as the engineer of a scandal that is of Mr. Lougee’s making are inconsistent with the avowals of Mr. Lougee and the Tegna Board that they regret this incident and take concerns about racially insensitive conduct seriously.
Tegna told TVSpy it sticks with the statement it sent to the SEC, which reads, in part, “No information has come to our attention in connection with this review or otherwise suggesting Dave has ever been accused of any incident of a similar nature; nevertheless, we care about even one such incident and view this as a reminder of the importance of continuing down the path of our strong commitment at Tegna to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.”