Try to imagine worst-case scenarios for a corporate communications team—a company's co-founder being arrested for beating a homeless man with a tire iron would likely rank somewhere near the top of the list. That's the situation Pinkberry found itself in when Young Lee, who co-founded the frozen yogurt company in 2005, was arrested by the LAX Fugitive Task Force late on Jan. 16 for assault with a deadly weapon. Lee and a companion chased and beat a homeless man with a tire iron after the man approached Lee's car and begged for money, according the Los Angeles Times.
And while Lee is not on Pinkberry's current list of executives and board members, the company has nevertheless found itself being dragged into a negative news cycle. Laura Jakobsen, Pinkberry's senior VP of marketing and design, responded to the Young Lee arrest with a statement that firmly distanced the company's current operations from its co-founder.
"Mr. Young Lee has no involvement with Pinkberry, our partners or our more than 170 stores worldwide. Pinkberry ended its ties with Mr. Lee formally on May 1, 2010," Jakobsen told LA Weekly. "He has no influence or input into the company in any way, and the parties have not been in communication with one another since Mr. Lee's exit. Pinkberry values the communities we serve and stands against acts of violence of any kind, especially those involving the most vulnerable among us."
Lee, a 47-year-old former kickboxer (according to the Los Angeles Times), has put Pinkberry in a tough spot. But instead of merely distancing itself from its co-founder, Pinkberry can use this as an opportunity to discuss the good it does in its communities, or start a new initiative—like donating to homeless shelters. Inspiration to do good sometimes comes from unexpected sources, and this incident may be one of them.