Lethbridge Herald

Maple Leaf CEO’s tweets unpreceden­ted

PLANE CRASH COMMENTS UNLIKELY TO AFFECT COMPANY’S BRAND: EXPERTS

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An angry series of tweets from the CEO of Maple Leaf Foods Inc. about the downing of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran are uncharacte­ristic and risky, but unlikely to create long-term consequenc­es for the company, experts say.

“My initial reaction was first an eyebrow raised and then a jaw dropped,” said Dimitry Anastakis, a professor at The University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, after he read Michael McCain’s tweets.

McCain took over the Maple Leaf Foods Twitter account Sunday evening for what he called his “personal reflection­s” after learning a colleague had lost his wife and child when Ukraine Internatio­nal Airlines flight PS752 was shot down shortly after takeoff from Tehran airport on Jan. 8, in what Iranian officials have described as an accident.

All 176 on board were killed, including 57 Canadians.

“I am very angry, and time isn’t making me less angry,” he wrote.

The Canadians on board are “collateral damage” from the behaviour of “a narcissist in Washington,” he said, adding “we are mourning and I am livid.”

The company declined an interview request, saying McCain “would prefer to let the messages in his tweets speak for themselves.”

Anastakis said he couldn’t think of a precedent for McCain’s comments in Canadian corporate history, especially since they were unsolicite­d and delivered through the company’s Twitter account rather than a personal method of communicat­ion.

McCain is widely regarded as an effective communicat­or, and “was always seen as a kind of case study of the greatest response to a public relations disaster” after a deadly listeria outbreak in 2008, said Anastakis.

He quickly appeared in a TV ad issuing a candid and abject apology for the outbreak.

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