- Pilot Flying J
- Secret recordings reveal former top executives at Flying Pilot J using “vile, despicable, inflammatory racial epithets.”
- At gathering of sales executives, the then-president requested a song called “N—– Lover”.
- Four former executives are on trial for charges related to an alleged $92 million fraud scheme.
- Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway announced it had agreed to acquire 38.6% of Pilot Travel Centers in October.
Recordings revealed in court reveal racist remarks from former top executives of the $20 billion truck stop chain.
Mark Hazelwood, the then-president of Pilot Flying J, requested that a song called “N—– Lover” to be played a gathering of sales executives in 2012, according to recordings played in court on Wednesday, Knox News reported.
The song contains lyrics such as: “It’s enough to make a man throw up. Sure is hard to figure how any decent girl could ever f— a greasy n—–.”
A former executive, Arnie Ralenkotter, responded to Hazelwood’s song request: “How’s that sensitivity training coming?”
According to Knox News, recordings also feature executives using racial epithets and insulting the populations of Oakland, California and Cleveland, Ohio. Top executives mocked fans of the Cleveland Browns, the NFL team owned by Jimmy Haslam, who is also partial owner and CEO of Pilot Flying J. Haslam was not featured in any recordings.
Hazelwood and other former executives are on trial on charges of attempting to commit mail fraud and wire fraud. (Haslam has not been charged, and denied knowledge of the scheme.) Hazelwood was indicted in February 2016, after leaving the company in 2014.
According to federal investigators, top executives at the truck stop engaged in a $92 million fraud scheme over five years to convince trucking companies to switch to Pilot Flying J, promising rebates the company did not plan to honor.
Prosecutors argued that the tape – recorded by an undercover FBI and IRS source – provided evidence against Hazelwood’s attorney claim that the defendant was too business savvy and hardworking to engage in actions that could negatively impact the business.
U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier announced in December that jurors would be allowed to hear the racist recordings.
“If it became known the president of Pilot engaged in vile, despicable, inflammatory racial epithets against African Americans, this could lead to boycotts and protests,” Collier said, as explanation for his decision, Knox News reported.
Pilot Flying J said in a statement to Knox News it was: “very disturbed and appalled by the extremely offensive and deplorable comments recorded over five years ago involving a small group of (now) former sales employees. This kind of behavior is reprehensible, not tolerated, nor reflective of the guiding principles of Pilot Flying J … No current team member of Pilot Flying J was present or participated in this incident.”
Berkshire Hathaway announced it had agreed to acquire 38.6% of Pilot Travel Centers in October 2017. Berkshire is set to become the majority shareholder by 2023.