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Largest Burger King Franchisee Hires Trailblazing Top Lawyer

Feb. 18, 2020, 4:47 PM

Markus Hartmann, a former combat helicopter pilot who publicly spoke out against race discrimination in the U.S. Marine Corps, is the new vice president and general counsel at Carrols Restaurant Group Inc.

“Markus is a great addition to the Carrols executive team and we look forward to benefiting from his varied industry experiences and history of effective leadership,” chairman and CEO Daniel Accordino said in a statement.

Carrols, the largest U.S. franchisee of Burger King restaurants, announced Feb. 14 that Hartmann will succeed William Myers, who will serve in a transitional role following his Feb. 17 retirement from the Syracuse, N.Y.-based company after 19 years of service.

Myers currently owns roughly $420,000 in Carrols stock, according to Bloomberg data. A 2018 proxy statement filed by the company shows he earned $619,349 in total compensation from Carrols that year.

Hartmann comes to Carrols after a little more than a year as vice president of technical compliance for the North American research and development arm of Mercedes-Benz, which is owned by German auto giant Daimler AG. Hartmann joined Mercedes-Benz’s the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based unit in late 2018, having previously held in-house roles at Sandoz AG, Reckitt Benckiser Group plc, GE Capital, and the Procter & Gamble Co.

It was at Reckitt where Hartmann also spoke about an experience that helped shape his legal career—his time in the U.S. military and the race discrimination he faced.

Varied Experience

Hartmann didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about his new position at Carrols, which operates 1,035 Burger Kings and 65 locations for Popeyes, the fried chicken fast food chain.

At Mercedes-Benz, Hartmann was responsible for “establishing the technical compliance function for Daimler’s passenger car and vans division,” Carrols said. He previously spent two years in Princeton, N.J., as North American general counsel at Sandoz—a unit of Swiss drug giant Novartis AG—and six years in Parsippany, N.J., and Amsterdam at Reckitt, a British consumer goods conglomerate.

Hartmann joined Reckitt in 1999 as general counsel for North America, Australia, and New Zealand, a role in which he spent nearly three years before becoming general counsel and chief compliance officer for Europe and North America. Hartmann was part of an in-house team at Reckitt that handled the company’s $482 million deal with Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in 2013 to sell certain drugs in Latin America.

Hartmann once flew CH-46 helicopters as a pilot during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in the period that led up to and included the 1990-1991 Gulf War, Carrols said in a statement.

He became a judge advocate in the Marine Corps Reserves and served as Staff Judge Advocate in 2005 to the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a U.S. military command in the African nation of Djibouti. Hartmann retired from the Marine Corps Reserves with the rank of colonel in 2014, Carrols said.

Race Discrimination

In a September 2011 interview with Magna Legal Services, a legal staffing and recruitment firm, Hartmann discussed his decision to enter the national spotlight as well as the similarities in flying combat operations and being an in-house lawyer: both jobs require monitoring a variety of potential risks and playing a supporting role in larger operations designed to execute specific strategies.

In a 1993 story by CBS News program “60 Minutes” called “A Few Good White Men,” Hartmann was one of several black members of the Marine Corps who described situations in which white superiors spoke to them in derogatory terms. Some of those men chose to leave the Marine Corps rather than fight what they considered to be institutional racism that made it difficult to further their military careers.

Hartmann told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl that he was called “boy” in “front of a wardroom full of officers” by the same white captain who failed him on two flight tests. At the time, Hartmann said he was told to quit because he didn’t have what it took to be an officer. Eventually, he found a sympathetic ear at Marine Corps headquarters.

According to Hartmann, a Marine Corps general told him: “‘You know captain, perhaps there is a problem when it’s easier to get into Harvard Law School than it is to stay in the Marine Corps.’”

In a 1999 follow-up by “60 Minutes,” the program noted Hartmann’s burgeoning legal career and new role in the Marine Corps Reserves, a more welcome environment for minorities in the Marine Corps.

Hartmann, who is biracial, never filed a lawsuit about the mistreatment he experienced. Instead, he spent nearly 20 years in the Marine Corps Reserves, telling Magna in 2011 that “success in the best revenge.”

“I ended up outranking just about everyone I felt treated me unfairly,” Hartmann said. “Perseverance and performance are far superior to being a plaintiff if you want to really change perceptions.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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