Legal

Frozen yoghurt chain Pinkberry co-founder jailed for assault

Yolanda Redrup /

The co-founder of a United States frozen yoghurt chain popular with celebrities has been sentenced to seven years in prison for assaulting a man in Los Angeles.

Young Lee, 49, left the dessert business Pinkberry in 2010, but originally founded the company alongside Hye Kyung (Shelly) Hwang in 2005.

Lee was sentenced on Friday to seven years in prison for an attack in June 2011 on a homeless man, Daniel Bolding, who was begging near a freeway off-ramp in Hollywood.

After opening its first store in West Hollywood, Pinkberry quickly became popular with celebrities such as Hillary Duff and Kim Kardashian.

The entrepreneur is said to have struck Bolding twice on the head and broken his arm, after Bolding showed a sexually explicit tattoo to people in Lee’s car while he was driving.

Lee originally drove away from the scene, but later returned and chased down Bolding, ordered him to apologise and to kneel on the ground, according to The Huffington Post.

Bolding followed Lee’s request, but was then beaten with a tire iron, resulting in a broken arm and cuts to his head.

In November last year Lee had been refused bail by the Los Angeles County Superior Court, with judge Henry Hall saying he was a “significant threat to the community”, according to the LA Times, after he threatened a witness.

In a statement to SmartCompany a spokesperson for Pinkberry affirmed Lee no longer has any association with the company.

Founder of PR firm CP Communications, Catriona Pollard, told SmartCompany the first thing a business should do to distance itself from negative publicity is be open and transparent.

“Make a statement to the media stating the facts. In this case, this would be informing people Lee left Pinkberry in 2010, no longer has a connection with the business and include a corporate statement about why the products and staff are amazing and so on,” she says.

“The next thing to think about is something companies should be doing all the time – building and maintaining a reputation so they already have a well-established reputation when an issue like this arises.”

Pollard says unless businesses deal with the media in an open and transparent way during a time of crisis, their reputation will come into question.

“If a company makes a decision not to talk to the media, there must have been a decision behind the scenes people aren’t aware of, but I think the majority of the time the chief executive should make a statement, or else it appears they’re hiding something, or that the company doesn’t deem the issue important enough for the chief executive to be involved” she says.

“The other thing too which helps companies distance themselves is to do some positive news stories highlighting their products, or community and any initiatives with their staff. They can also focus on local news stories and talk about what the stores are doing in their local area.”

Pollard says during a period of negative press, social media is crucial, but it needs to be used in the right way.

“Social media is also important, but it needs to have the same approach as with PR. In a time of crisis there are often knee-jerk reactions like shutting the Facebook page or deciding not to respond to any comments,” she says.

“There needs to be a team of people monitoring social media and actually having a chain of responses around what comments to react to and what not to.”

Pollard says ultimately companies need to just be honest and do their best to “ride out the storm”.

“In any crisis, if it’s not handled well there is the potential for a permanent impact on the organisation, however I suspect in this case there won’t be. The key is learning to respond with a strategy informed by a long-term view, not with knee jerk reactions,” she says.

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