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Valley CEO no longer president of company after calling student Uber driver racial slur, attorney says

Posted at 11:57 AM, Feb 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-07 07:46:37-05

TEMPE, AZ — A Valley CEO accused of using a racial slur against a rideshare driver last week is no longer with the company, according to an attorney.

Hans Berglund, the founder and CEO of AgroPlasma, which is an organic fertilizer company based in Tempe, was captured on video using racial slurs against a student Uber driver.

The incident in question occurred last Friday night when Uber driver Randy Clarke asked Berglund to sit in the back of his vehicle during their ride. Clarke said he has a policy that riders use the backseat after he was assaulted during a ride in 2018.

Video from the vehicle shows Clarke asking Berglund to sit in the back seat and offering to refund him if he didn't want to sit there.

"Are you f***ing serious with me?" Berglund is heard saying. He later says: "Is it because I'm White? And you're a f****ing N******? You are a f***ing idiot."

ABC15 confirmed the news that Berglund is no longer with the company late Wednesday morning. He has reportedly been replaced with an interim CEO.

AgroPlasma Inc.'s Matt Brill released the following statement Wednesday:

"In light of the events of this past Friday, Agroplasma CEO Hans Berglund has been relieved of his duties while the company performs a full internal investigation.

The incident is not at all reflective of Agroplasma’s values and ethics. Our relationships with our employees, customers and the community are the cornerstones of our success, and we are doing everything in our power to rebuild their trust and repair the harm that has resulted from this incident.

Jeffrey Ziehmer, who has been serving as Agroplasma’s General Manager, will assume the role of Interim CEO until further notice.

We have no further comment at this time."

After the incident, Berglund told ABC15, "I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr. Clarke. I firmly believe that there is no excuse for the use of racial slurs under any circumstance, so I will not offer any. It is my sincere hope that Mr. Clarke hears and accepts my apology and believes me when I say it is honest and heartfelt."

Uber responded to ABC15 by saying, "Discrimination has no place on the Uber app or anywhere. What’s been described is a clear violation of our Community Guidelines and we launched an investigation as soon as we learned of it.”

Clarke said that Uber reached out to him late Monday to tell him that Berglund's account has been temporarily placed on hold during the investigation.