KEY POINTS

  • The CEO of Agroplasma in Tempe, Arizona, yelled racial slurs at the Uber driver after a short argument over the driver asking him to sit in the back seat of the car
  • The driver's car reportedly had signs saying the front seat was "reserved for parties of three or more" because of an alleged sexual assault by a passenger in 2018
  • Agroplasma suspended the CEO and named an interim leader while it conducts an internal investigation

The CEO of a fertilizer company in Tempe, Arizona, was suspended Thursday after a video emerged online of him yelling racial slurs at an African American Uber driver.

Hans Berglund, founder and CEO of Agroplasma in Tempe, was removed as CEO and suspended shortly after the video emerged on YouTube. The company said an interim CEO would be appointed an internal investigation into the incident is conpleted.

“Agroplasma announces today that Jeffrey Ziehmer, who has been serving as Agroplasma’s general manager, has assumed the role of Interim CEO,” Agroplasma said in a statement.

The incident reportedly occurred on Jan. 31 when Berglund was picked up Randy Clarke, a 25-year-old Uber driver and Arizona State University student. Clarke told Phoenix ABC-affiliate KNXV that Berglund tried to sit in the front seat of his car despite having signs on the inside and outside of the car saying it was “reserved for parties of three or more.”

Clarke said the sign stemmed from an incident in 2018 where he was allegedly sexually assaulted by a passenger.

“I was sexually assaulted before,” Clarke said. “He was drunk, grabbed my crotch. I said, 'Whoa, you can't be doing that' and ended the ride.”

However, Berglund argued with Clarke, allegedly saying he didn’t like sitting in the backseat. The two continued to argue before Clarke offered to cancel the trip and refund Berglund. Clarke said Berglund agreed before trying to get in the backseat of the car, which prompted Clarke to ask him to get out. Berglund responded by yelling racial slurs at Clarke and then left.

“I was in shock,” Clarke said. “And I shamelessly felt like laughing because I did not know this was real. It's not just any word.”

Clarke quickly filed a complaint with Uber, who began their own investigation and suspended Berglund’s account. Uber followed up with a statement, 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.”

Berglund issued a public apology to Clarke.

“I deeply regret and apologize for the hurtful and derogatory language I used during the altercation with Mr. Clarke," he said. "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.”