April 14, 1983, Jessie Jackson and Burger King President J. Jeffrey Campbell sign an agreement to hire and promote more Black executives. Around this time, Herman Cain, without any real life prior restaurant management experience, outside of a nine month executive training program, was named a Burger King Regional Manager.

This article examines the relationship of Herman Cain getting his first major managerial position of his life at Burger King, around March, 1983, and at the same time, Burger King starting a major affirmative action program to promote blacks into executive positions. The evidence suggests that it was not a coincidence and Cain owes his managerial career to the liberal activists who pressured Burger King into reversing its racially discriminatory policies.

“My goal was eventually to get where I am now, quite frankly. My goals beyond this point are to become even more integral to the management of the Burger King organization. At some point, I might like to move into division management and become a senior vice-president and division officer and maybe become an executive officer. If ever I were to become so successful in Burger King that there wasn’t anything else for me to do, sure [I’d look elsewhere]. But you’re talking 20 to 25 years away at this point. Burger King is big enough to satisfy all my ambitions at the present time[1].” — Herman Cain, circa November 1983

In this December, 1983 Computerworld article, Herman Cain sounds extremely satisfied and content after starting his new job managing the Philadelphia region Burger King restaurant chain. This is in contrast to the previous year when Herman Cain was 37 years old and in despair. He admits to feeling trapped in a dead-end job working for Pillsbury information systems/information management in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He had a nice title “vice president of systems services[2].” He received this title in 1981, after three year as the “director of management science.” It was the policy of the company to promote people when they were young and give them nice titles. Pillsbury had dozens of young and fresh “vice-presidents.”

Being granted a title of vice-president in your 30s was no guarantee of a long career at Pillsbury[3]. For example, all the men in this picture below became Pillsbury vice-presidents or presidents in their 30s. Charles S. Olcott was 35 when he was “vice president” of investor relations in 1982[4]. He was 39 when he was named as President of Burger King in 1986[5]. He was 41 in 1988 when he was forced to resign[6]. Kyle Craig was 34 in 1982 when he was appointed senior “vice president” and director of marketing[7]. He was 40 when he was forced to resign in 1988[8].  J. Jeffrey Campbell was 37 when he became an Executive “vice president” in charge of marketing in 1981[9], age 39 when he was named Chairman and CEO of Burger King[10] in 1983 and 40 when he was named executive vice president for Pillsbury in 1984. He was 45 when he was forced to resign in 1988[11].

Figure 1 Four Pillsbury Executives - Charles S. Olcott, Herman Cain, J. Jeffrey Cambell, Kyle T. Craig. All were made vice-presidents in their mid 30’s, all were gone less than seven years later in their early 40’s. All four resigned from Pillsbury in 1988 a few months after this picture. Picture from Ebony, Magazine, 1988.

As vice-president of system services, Cain was probably making around $70,000 dollars a year at the time[12]. Other vice-presidents were earning $400,000[13].  We should remember that Cain was vice-president of a very small group of only 15 computer tech people[14]. Other vice-presidents were in charge of thousands of people. It was certainly enough to support himself, his wife and two children, but his father “was suffering the complications of diabetes[15].” After some five years at Pillsbury, all was not well for Herman Cain.

Cain describes his mental depression this way in his book:

After the headquarters project turned out successfully, I was once again bored. Life was good – Gloria and I were healthy; we now had a daughter and a son; we lived in a nice home; we had even started taking vacations, which we had never done much earlier in my career. I was even singing in the church choir and recording with a Minneapolis gospel singing group. But my motivation had collapsed.
I was sitting in my new office on the thirty-first floor of the World Headquarters one day when I looked out the window and saw that the inflatable dome of the new Minneapolis stadium had collapsed. I realized, as I sat there, staring out the window, that what had kept me happy and motivated was the excitement, challenge, and risk of the past few years[16].

Cain beautifully associates and symbolizes his mental collapse with the collapse of the Dome in the Minneapolis Stadium. A good psychoanalyst can see how Cain uses external images to describe his internal mental state. Unfortunately, not having a background in psychoanalysis, Cain blames his problems on the metaphysical principle of “self-motivation.” He is unable to articulate or analyze the truth about his financial and social conditions. In fact in an earlier article in Ebony magazine, he again points to this key moment in his life, but describes the reason for his depression differently[17].

One day I was sitting in my office on the 31st floor of the new Pillsbury Center and I asked myself, ‘Now what?’ he recalls, ‘Coming in to sign budgets and review administrative papers for the next 25 years didn’t quite appeal to me.”
So Cain decided to shift gears and after talking to Pillsbury officials resigned his vice-president post to learn the fast food industry at Burger King, a Pillsbury subsidiary.

Note that Cain sees himself doing the same thing at Pillsbury for the next 25 years. He sees no chance for advancement.   One wonders why he does not plan on starting his own company or moving to a new company. He understood that Pillsbury had a history of racial discrimination and he would not advance further. He didn’t have the capital to start his own consulting tech firm and opportunities with other firms were limited by his lack of educational background (only one year at Purdue getting a Masters in management science) and experience (working on singular information management odds jobs for the Coke and Pillsbury Companies for 10 years.

Cain is trying to make it seem that he made a deliberate strategic choice in abandoning his five year tech career at Pillsbury to do something new. He is trying to explain why at age 37, with no background in managing restaurants of any kind, he suddenly shifted to this completely new field. He tries to pass it off as simply a matter of wanting excitement and adventure. In fact, being a vice president in a computer tech group of 15 people was a great achievement for Cain. He had only had a year of computer tech at Purdue. He had worked alone in his five years at Coca Cola.

He knew too that a slew of young people were graduating every year with Masters’ degrees in computer tech and information management and had grown up in the new computer culture. He knew that Pillsbury would not hesitate to fire him in a moment and hire a recent graduate five years younger than him, who would be happy to do his job for the next five years at 2/3rds his salary. Staying at Pillsbury for the next 25 years could only have been a pleasant wishful hope for him.

Cain likes to tell how his expertise and skills had caught the attention of his bosses at Pillsbury. In fact the truth is far more likely that his deficiencies and mistakes had caught their attention.

Cain only describes two major jobs he did in his five years in a management systems (basically a computer tech) job at Pillsbury. One was installing a main frame computer and integrating information systems when the company took over Green Giant in January, 1979[18]. While this is reasonably complicated, it shouldn’t have taken his department more than a couple of months to accomplish this. He says that this went “smooth as silk[19].”

He claims that because of this, a year later in 1980, he was made vice president in charge of systems services. In both his new book and his 2005 book, “They think you’re stupid,” Cain claims credit for a successful “smooth as silk” job which was done while his predecessor, John Haaland, was still in charge of his 15 person group. Claiming credit for other people’s work is not unusual for Cain. For example, he claims repeatedly in later interviews to have settled a large lawsuit against Godfather’s which was settled before he arrived[20] at Godfather’s. In his 1983 Computer World interview, he was more modest, saying that he was a strategic officer on the Green Giant project and a lot of people from both Green Giant and Pillsbury were involved[21]:

Management’s concern during this integration process was that we avoid a computer disaster, keep some key people from leaving and be sure we could run some systems critical to the business. So they perceived it as more of a people issue than a technical issue. Between the two organizations, we had an abundance of technical expertise, in terms of information systems people, model builders, programmers, etc. It was a question of getting them all to come together, establishing a direction, some goals, and then getting people to follow that.

If there was an abundance of technical expertise to avoid a computer disaster and install the mainframe computer, what exactly did Cain do on this project? He describes his role this way, “one of the main responsibilities I faced was how do I integrate the information systems function — meaning the people, the systems, the hardware and the budgets — into one unit.”

As Pillsbury’s organization for information systems consisted of 15 people, we may assume that Green Giant’s was roughly the same size or smaller. Cain’s major achievement of his first two to three years at Pillsbury appears to have been helping “strategically” to get two departments of around 15 people each from two companies to work together as one department in one company.

Once he took over John Haaland’s job in 1980, he now faced his first major job on his own in 1981. He had to organize a move into a new headquarters for 2,000 people in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This should have been a relatively simple affair with 15 people in his department, like the installation of the Green Giant mainframe, but apparently it went very badly. In the 1988 Ebony article, he describes it this way:

Within five years, he had become vice-president of corporate systems and services. However, the new title came with a formidable task of overseeing the construction of Pillsbury’s World Headquarters Project, a job that required the moving of 2,000 employees scattered around the Minneapolis area into the new corporate headquarters. Making matters worse, the project had been running overbudget and had been stalled by contractual disputes.

Cain rose to the challenge as he and his staff moved quickly to resolve the disputes among the contractors and those between the new building’s owners and some of the prospective tenants. With that done the project moved to an on-time completion and came in under budget. For his work, Cain gained recognition among Pillsbury’s senior management as a guy who could get things done[22].

Cain tells us that, “the new title came with a formidable task of overseeing the construction of Pillsbury’s World Headquarters Project, a job that required the moving of 2,000 employees.” Part of being a vice-president of a company’s information management group is that you get information to people who need it. Cain was apparently supposed to do certain things and did not realize that they were his responsibility as a new vice-president. The running over budget and other problems were his responsibility. Cain adds some important details about the problems he encountered on this project in his new book[23]:

It wasn’t long before I realized what a decision-making coordination, and communications nightmare my assignment was turning out to be! The project was over budget, behind schedule, and headed for a “crash” with our future landlord. Language ambiguities in the lease contract caused conflicts over who would be responsible for paying for changes to the project—and we’re not talking peanuts, but millions of dollars in real money.

I asked the previous executive in charge to call a meeting so that I could meet everyone responsible for various pieces of the project. Walking into the conference room where more than twenty people were sitting around a large table, I wondered “who are these people?

After four years at Pillsbury, it is 1981 and Cain is in charge of his first major project. It was what should have been a relatively simple move of 2,000 people and equipment into a new office building. Yet, by his own admission, the project turned into a “nightmare,” crashing all around him and he has to call on the previous man in charge to help him set up a meeting. At the meeting, he doesn’t even know the people who are key to making the move.

I soon found out. There sat a chief accountant, a chief architect, a chief attorney, a chief construction consultant, a chief contractor, a chief engineer, a chief moving manager, a chief planner, as well as all of their co-chiefs! Said “Chiefs” looked at me as if to say: so how are you, a young whipper-snapper going to straighten out this mess.
Frankly, I had no idea…The World Headquarters Project was an all consuming mess!

Cain had made an “all consuming mess!” of his first important project as vice-president. He had to go to the CEO and COO of Pillsbury, Bill Spoor and Win Wallin to get things straightened out. In Cain’s narrative, he just went to them for advice. Obviously, when you go to the CEO and COO of a major multi-billion dollar corporation, it is not just for advice. Obviously, they had summoned Cain to a meeting to straighten out mistakes that Cain had made. Cain’s narrative jumps over this and he announces, “the project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget. Five years later Bill Spoor presented me with the Pillsbury Company’s Symbol of Excellence in Leadership Award.”

On his first major assignment, he had messed up badly, mis-coordinating a relatively simple location move for 2,000 employees and equipment. Why should Spoor present him with an award five years later for excellence? In his 2005 book, Cain says that Spoor presented him the award two years later[24]. I found no evidence of Cain ever having won the award two or five years later or that Pillsbury ever gave anybody an award called a “Symbol of Excellence in Leadership Award.” Since the name of the award is awkward, as is much of Cain’s phraseology in his speech making, my conclusion is that Mr. Cain made up the award for himself. I hope somebody can send me evidence that he did receive such an award.

Rather than being successful in the one major project he was in charge of at Pillsbury, it was more likely that Cain was perceived as a major failure by the leadership at Pillsbury. For the next year, he apparently did not receive any important assignment. This must have been part of the cause of his depression.

This article appears to confirm that Cain started his Philadelphia Region Burger King Management job around September, 1983, five months after Burger King's Affirmative Action program for hiring more Black Executives was announced.

We now come to a problem of dates. Cain often repeats how he decided to start his career over, quit his job, underwent nine months training and became the Philadelphia Region vice president in charge of 400 Burger Kings. He is never specific about the dates for these events.  I wanted to see if he got his position at Burger King before or after Burger King announced an Affirmative Action agreement to hire more black executives in March 1983 (more on this later).

Cain claims on his website that he left Pillsbury and went to Burger King in 1982. However, Cain has said that his decision-making moment to change the course of his life came on the day that the Minnesota Stadium Dome collapsed. Actually, the roof of the Dome deflated three times, on Nov. 19, 1981, December 31, 1982[25], and April 14, 1983[26]. Which dome collapse is Cain describing?

Trying to find when Cain took over his new post as Philadelphia regional manager for Burger King was a far greater problem than one would imagine. I could only turn up announcements in the Black press of the time. One announcement was in the Afro American, a Baltimore, Maryland weekly black newspaper from the time. The newspaper was dated September 10, 1983[27]. This seems to suggest that Cain was promoted August or September 1, 1983 to be Philadelphia region manager. A Monthly magazine, Black Enterprise notes the promotion in its December 1983 issue. Magazines often had lead times back then between layout and publication date of two or three months so this seems to confirm the August-September 1, 1983 date. However, a Jet magazine from August 8, 1983, has Cain referred to as “a region vice president[28].”

Herman Cain and J Jeffrey Campbell at a Washington DC party. Picture from Jet Magazine, August 8, 1983

Cain says his fast track training for the Burger King job lasted nine months[29].  We know that for three of those months he was managing a store. In the December, 1983 Computer World[30]article we read:

I learned by actually working all the positions in a Burger King restaurant: up through assistant manager levels, restaurant manager level, district manager level, franchise district manager level, area manager level. I moved along as I became more familiar. It’s training, but I actually had to hold these jobs. I was actually responsible for a restaurant for three months during this time. I was the manager responsible for opening and closing, all the day-to-day activities, hiring and firing, equipment maintenance, you name it. That’s the way you understand the guts of the business .

As an aside, let me note here that Cain likes to say how he started from the bottom up. In fact, his training at levels less than a store manager lasted at most two months[31]. In his training program, according to his own words, he simply learned all the daily customer related restaurant work (cooking, taking orders, cleaning, replacing equipment, counting money and receipts, opening and closing, etc.) in two months. He moved on and managed a single restaurant for three months. He was district manager, franchise manager and area manager for at least four months. This was hardly starting “at the bottom.” This was a training program designed to install Cain as a top executive at Burger King. Pillsbury management skipped him over hundreds of loyal Burger King employees who had worked hard for five and ten years or more and already had major experience in the restaurant business. Cain knew that he was not going to work at any of these jobs for more than a few days or weeks. He knew that he was going into a high level management position. Cain revealed this in a 1997 article, “…Cain was bored. He wanted to run a business. Pillsbury President Win Wallin suggested that Cain learn the operations at Pillsbury ‘s Burger King division because it could mean that Cain would become a regional vice president[32].” There’s a difference when you’re flipping burgers for minimum wage, and have no other job prospects, and you’re flipping burgers for a week or two, knowing that the president of a $3 billion dollar company had promised that you’d be a regional manager making $200,000 a year in 18 months. Cain proclaims he started from the bottom at Burger King, when the truth is he started from the top.

At first glance, the nine month training period fits right into Cain’s scenario if we imagine that his career epiphany or depression happened when the Minnesota Metrodome had its December 31st 1982 collapse. He walks into the president’s office the next day and his training begins. His training lasts from January 1 to September 1, 1982 which is exactly nine months.
However, Cain, in recounting the story sentimentally in an article for Parade Magazine in 1995, wrecks that time line[33]:

Cain turned to Win Wallin, the president of Pillsbury, for help. “I can’t get to your job from where I am,” Cain told him. “What do you recommend?” Wallin suggested getting on the operations training track in the company’s Burger King division, which could lead to being a regional vice president. “If you want to run a business,” Wallin said, “you have to start at the bottom and learn it from the ground up.” It would be an unconventional move. Cain would have to resign his title, give up his company car and nice new office, and forgo stock options to start over, flipping hamburgers with the broiler crew.

As with every major decision in his life, Cain turned to prayer for help. He got down on his knees: “Lord, what do you want me to do?” When his wife noticed him lost in reflection and meditation, she told him, “Don’t worry—I know you can do this.” Cain accepted her words as a sign from God that he was making the right move.

In April 1982, Cain said goodbye to Pillsbury headquarters. That same day, he got word that his father had died of complications from diabetes. He was only 57.

Cain’s father died March 29, 1982[34]. This is a helpful clue, but now the time line doesn’t fit for a couple of reasons. The first problem is reconciling it with the dome collapse. The first dome collapse was almost five months before this and Cain tells us that he made his decision to change jobs just after the dome collapse. Second, this would mean that Cain spent from April 1982 to September 1983, taking 17 months to do the program he says that he did in nine months. Cain often says the training was supposed to take 18 months, could it have actually taken 17 months and Cain is glorifying himself by saying it took nine? Of course, there is also the possibility the news sources for that September announcement may have been announcing old news. If we ignore the press articles, and assume he did take nine months, this would put his coming to Philadelphia in January, 1983, two months before the Affirmative Action agreement.

Still, it is impossible to completely reconcile the four dates.
1) Cain makes decision to pursue new career when dome collapses (Nov. 19, 1981, Dec 31, 1982, or April 14, 1983)
2) Cain leaves Pillsbury (farewell party March 27, 1982, when his father dies)
3) Cain undergoes nine months training.
4) Cain becomes Burger King Philadelphia regional manager (August or September 1983 suggested by Black press of the time).

Cain is misleading us somewhere. We can only go with the most likely scenario. Cain made his decision with the first Dome collapse on Nov. 19, 1981. Four months later after his farewell party and father’s death, he began his training in April, 1982. This would have him becoming regional manager nine months later in January, 1983. However, why then does the black press suggest a date eight or nine months later – August or September for Cain getting his job?

A July, 1987 puff piece for Cain in Nation’s Restaurant News entitled “Godfather’s Able Pharoah” (comparing Cain to an Egyptian Pharoah) perhaps helps us out of this dilemma. It tells us, “Cain resigned his vice presidency and secured a transfer to Burger King–as a unit staffer. Two months of broiling burgers and drawing shakes earned him a promotion to restaurant manager, and within nine months, he was named a regional vice president[35].”

If this is correct, Cain did two months as a unit staffer and nine months later, after a total of eleven months of training, he was named a regional vice president. If we assume training started in April, 1982, then Cain was named to a regional management position in March or April 1983.  This also explains why the August, 1983 Jet article just refers to him as a regional vice president and this Nation’s Restaurant News article says he was “named as a regional vice president.” Apparently, he was named a regional vice-president in March, but he did not actually take over the Philadelphia Area region until September, 1983. This would explain why we don’t read the announcements until that time. If this is correct, Cain was named a regional vice president at the time Burger King was announcing its Affirmative Action agreement in March, 1983, but he was still in a training program. In the last six month phase, he was still training to be a regional vice-president and actually, officially took over the position in Philadelphia in September 1983. We may suppose that the training program consisted of twelve months actual training and then six months of transitioning into the actual management position. This also means that Cain actually did his 18 month training program in 17 months. The twelve month of Cain’s training was probably cut short a month because Burger King wanted the announcement that he was going to be a regional manager to coincide with the Affirmative Action agreement.

This is the best that I can discern given the limited facts. Hopefully someone will clarify the dates of these events at some point.

As Cain describes it, quitting a secure $70,000 a year program to go through an 18 month management training program with teenagers to get a fast food management job was a gutsy move. It isn’t a gutsy move, it is an insane move. It is a move one would only do out of desperation, if one had no choice. Cain makes it seem as if he stopped by the office of the President of Pillsbury, Wim Wallin to seek some fatherly career advice. This is a highly unlikely scenario. According to Cain, Wallin just happened to suggest the Burger King training program. Cain went home and prayed and with trepidation Cain immediately decided to follow his boss’ suggestions and handed in his resignation.

It is far more probable that Wim Wallin called Cain into his office. He did not offer Cain the choice of staying in the field that he had been working in for almost 10 years, information/systems management. It is far more probable that Cain was given an ultimatum: a management job at Burger King after a short training program or be fired. The only choice that Cain had was to go on the open market and look for a job or accept Wallin’s offer. Both were bad choices that could ruin Cain’s life and that is why he prayed.

Under this scenario, we have to ask why Wallin was so anxious to have Cain move to Burger King when Burger King didn’t need any of Cain’s background talents in math and computer tech. They could have picked any liberal arts College graduate to do what Cain was about to do. The answer is that there was one thing that Cain had over any college graduate. He was a black man with five years seniority at Pillsbury. Pillsbury didn’t want to fire Cain, even if he was incompetent, because they didn’t want a discrimination lawsuit. On the other hand, J Jeffrey Campbell, president of Burger King needed a black man like Cain. He needed a black man because he was working out a deal with Jessie Jackson to get Black executives into Burger King.

On March 17, 1983, at Burger King’s headquarters, in Miami, Florida, push had come to shove. Jessie Jackson’s PUSH organization had reached an agreement with Burger King President J. Jeffrey Campbell. Jackson had called off an announced boycott of Burger King. The Miami Herald reported:

Figure 3 Jet Magazine, May 9, 1983 Burger King President Campbell signs PUSH agreement with Jessie Jackson to bring more Black Executives into Burger King.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of the Chicago-based Operation PUSH, announced a “far-reaching mutual aid agreement” had been reached for greater minority participation within all areas of the Miami-based company…

That involvement will be in “franchising, employment at all levels, procurement, advertising,” said J. Jeffrey Campbell, president of Burger King USA…

Operation PUSH had been negotiating an agreement with corporate officers for six months. Jackson let the officers know that Wednesday’s session would be the last before a national boycott would be called[36].

Jackson had good reason to target Burger King for its discrimination. A year later, fast food rival MacDonald’s got hit with a $50 million dollar discrimination law suit. A Philadelphia Daily News article on the MacDonald’s law suit wrote how similar McDonald’s policies were to Burger King. It noted[37]:

Operation PUSH, the civil-rights group founded by Jesse Jackson, began looking at Burger King after its black operators voiced complaints similar to those of McDonald’s minority franchisees.

“We feel the system is designed to keep us in set neighborhoods,” said Pettis Norman, president of the Burger King Minority Franchisee Association. ”We feel we have been locked into less-than-successful operations.”

Norman, who played tight end for the Dallas Cowboys for nine years, said there are only 60 black or Hispanic Burger King operators and they run only 140 of the 3,500 restaurants in the chain.

Burger Kings run by minorities have annual sales volumes that are $200,000 to $250,000 below the national average of $800,000 to $900,000, Norman claimed.

Pillsbury had been sued for racial and sexual discrimination in 1977[38]. It was able to get the suit thrown out on technicalities in 1978. The agreement with PUSH did not stop a law suit against Pillsbury settled in 1990, costing 3.7 million, for “across-the-board race discrimination, including failure to hire and promote blacks, a lack of pay raises for those who did work there and a disparate number of firings in the group[39].” It did not stop a $500 million dollar lawsuit by Black franchise owners in 1988[40].

The PUSH agreement was still a good deal for both Campbell and Burger King and Jessie Jackson. Jackson got some money and helped black people at all social levels, Campbell avoided law suits and won great popularity. Also Campbell probably recognized that the majority of his customer base was black and it was time to stop the systematic discrimination that had been going on at Pillsbury.
While Jackson and Campbell reached an agreement on March 17, 1983[41], this agreement was not signed until April 18, 1983 . The Miami Herald reported:

A $450-million trade covenant signed Monday by the Burger King Corp ., its Minority Franchise Association and Operation PUSH will bring blacks into the mainstream of the Miami-based company’s corporate structure and provide as many as 20,000 new jobs, the organizations say.

The four-year agreement sets goals for minority employment and participation in management and introduces new initiatives, including the hiring of UniWorld, a black-run advertising agency, and more minority contractors and suppliers.

Burger King set a goal of 21 per cent black employees and promises to distribute those jobs among the upper as well as lower levels of the company. The restaurant chain will make available to black owners 15 per cent of its franchises, or 548 stores, by mid-1987. It will also spend 15 per cent of its advertising budget with a black ad agency.

For Cain, admitting that he had been a failure in his information management job, admitting that he was forced to enter a field that he knew nothing about at the age of 37 and admitting that he only got a job managing Philadelphia Burger Kings because he was a black man with seniority, needed to fulfill a quota was to admit reality. Cain preferred to ignore that reality, spin the truth and glorify himself as an exceptional individual.

We know that Campbell started negotiating to get more black executives with Jackson six months before the March, 1983 agreement or as early as September, 1982. However, Burger King management must have known of PUSH’s plans for a black boycott much earlier. This explains the real reason Pillsbury moved Cain from Pillsbury to Burger King some time in April, 1992. Cain’s depression was over the fact that he was being forced to move to a new job he did not want by Pillsbury management, it was not Cain being called by God like the old testament prophets as Cain insinuates in his numerous autobiographical works.

To summarize, the evidence suggests that Cain was not successful at his job at Pillsbury. The evidence indicates that Jessie Jackson’s PUSH organization’s threat of a black boycott of Burger King moved Pillsbury to transfer him from his job at Pillsbury to a highly visible position as the only upper level black manager in Burger King, running predominantly black Philadelphia Area Burger Kings.

Cain claims that as manager of 400 Philadelphia Burger Kings he turned the worst performing Burger King region into one of the best. In my next blog, Selling and Telling Whoppers: Herman Cain and Burger King, I’ll look at the publicly available numbers to show that this is another reality challenged bit of self-glorification on Mr. Cain’s part.


[1] December 5, 1983, Halbrecht, Herbert Z., Computer World 17, Moving Out and Up to Executive Offices.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Here are some other bright young executives at Pillsbury with short carriers: Jay Darling became executive vice president in charge of operations and support systems in 1984 at the age of 34. At 35, he was made President of Burger King. At 37, he “resigned.”  7/22/1986, N.Y. Times, Financial Desk: Burger King President Quits, pg. 11. Jerome B. Ruenheck became president and chief operating officer of the Burger King Corporation in 1980 at the age of 41. At 46, he “resigned.”  Before him, Louis P. Neeb, was 41 when he became president of Burger King in 1980, He was 43 when he resigned in 1982. 1/14/1985 N.Y. Times, Financial Desk: President Resigns at Burger King, pg. 2.

[4] Feb 16, 1987, Nation’s Restaurant News,  Burger King chief plays peacemaker; Olcott faces management challenge in new role as president

[5] Oct. 27, 1986,  Edwards, Joe, National Restaurant News, Burger King Names Olcott President.

[6] Oct. 20, 1988, Washington Post, Pillsbury Might Sell Burger King
[7] June 21, 1982, Herald Staff, Miami Herald, Craig Promoted at Burger King. Craig was promoted after 4 years at Burger King.
[8] June 13, 1988, Star Tribune, Second Pillsbury executive resigns – Led full-service restaurant group
[9] June 8, 1981, Dougherty, Philip H., N.Y. Times, Back at Burger King.
[10] June 10, 1983, Merzer, Martin,  Miami Herald, Brinker Resigns as Burger King Chief.
[11] Above, Second Pillsbury executive resigns

[12] Joan Lefkowitz, a 35-year-old director of corporate human resources at Pillsbury’s Burger King said she was making $50-60,000 in a 1984 article. Cain, as a computer specialist was probably not making much more.  January 9, 1984, Miami Herald, Askari, Emilia, Still Lonely at the Top for Women. Cain himself later said, “I was making $70,000-plus,” Cain said with a chuckle, “and next thing I knew I was working in a Burger King restaurant in Hopkins, Minn.”  Knowing that Cain tends to exaggerate everything, we should take this as the maximum he was possibly making. from July, 20, 1987, Anthony, Neal St., Star Tribune, In a Short Time, He Turned it Around.

[13] May 23, 1980, Lescaze, Lee, Washington Post, Pillsbury Officer Picked by CBS. And Sept 2, 182, Miamia Herald, Burger King Chief Gets Extra $350,000.

[14] Above, Moving Out and Up to Executive Offices.

[15] Herman Cain, This is Herman Cain: My Journey to the White House, Threshold Editions, pg. 48.
[16] Ibid, pg. 49.
[17] April 1988, Lyons, Douglas, C, Ebony Magazine, The Godfather of Pizza. pg. 82
[18] January 31, 1979, Nashua Telegraph, Pillsbury Acquires Green Giant Firm.
[19] Above, This is Herman Cain, pg. 46.
[20] The lawsuit by franchisee, Concept Development Inc. was settled in March 1986, two weeks before Cain was appointed to Godfather’s. See March 20, 1986, Wall Street Journal, Pillsbury Unit Settles Suits With Concept Development Inc.

Cain had nothing to do with the settlement. For his falsely taking credit for it, see, for example, September 6, 1987, Omaha World Herald, Jordon, Steve, Godfather’s Chief to Double Number of Pizza Restaurants.

[21] Above, Moving Out and Up.

[22] Ibid.,

[23] Ibid.,  pp 47-48.
[24] Cain, Herman, They Think You’re Stupid: Why Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep it, Stroud & Hall Pub, 2005, pg. 191.
[25] Dec. 31, 1982, Miami Herald,  Roof of Minneapolis Metrodome Deflates in Snow Clearing Accident.
[27] September 10, 1983, Afro American, People in the News.
[28] August 8, 1983, Jet, Burger King Hosts Minority Students in Nation’s Capital
[29] Above, This is Herman Cain, pg. 58.
[30] Above, Moving Out and Up.
[31] Feb, 1988, Black Enterprise, This Pizza Man Delivers.
[32] June 3, 1997, Russo, Ed, Lincoln Journal Star, Cain: Focus on economics, not race, when hiring
[35] Sept. 14, 1987, Nation’s Restaurant News, Godfather’s able pharaoh: Herman Cain steps from obscurity to take the helm of suffering pizza chain and overcomes all odds to turn around the company and its profits
[36] March 17, 1983, Miami Herald, Burger King Joins Push for Minorities.
[37] March 8, 1984, Geller, Andrew, Philadelphia Daily News, $50M Suit Challenges Big Mac Black Franchisee: I was kept from White Areas.
[39] October 13, 1990, Walsh, Sharon, Washington Post, Pillsbury to Pay $ 3.6 Million To Settle Discrimination Suit
[40] October 31 2011,  Connelly, Mike, N.Y. Times, Minority Franchises Sue Burger King, Charging Pillsbury Unit Discrimination.
[41] April 19, 1983, Miami Herald, Burger King Corp Sets Goals for Increased Minority Hiring.