Herman Cain, a US businessman and onetime Republican presidential candidate, has died after a month-long battle with coronavirus.
Cain died in an Atlanta-area hospital, where he was admitted in early July, according to Newsmax, where he had been set to launch a weekly television program.
“Herman Cain – our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us – has passed away,” the editor of his website wrote.
“Although he was basically pretty healthy in recent years, he was still in a high-risk group because of his history with cancer,” the statement said.
Cain was born in December 1945 in Tennessee and raised in Atlanta by a domestic worker mother and chauffeur father.
The Navy veteran established himself in the corporate world with stints at Pillsbury and Burger King before reviving Godfather’s Pizza as its CEO.
Cain then tried his hand at national politics, spicing up the 2012 race for the Republican presidential nomination with his lively interviews and debate performances.
The African-American businessman’s signature policy was his catchy “9-9-9” tax reform plan – a nine percent income tax, a nine percent corporate tax, and nine percent sales tax.
After briefly leading in the polls, Cain suspended his campaign following allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denied.
US President Donald Trump considered him last year for a position on the US Federal Reserve, before his candidacy withered under the opposition of several key Republicans.
Cain, a co-chair of Black Voices for Trump, attended a rally for the incumbent in Oklahoma last month, at which several campaign staffers tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
It is not clear how Cain contracted COVID-19.
He is survived by his wife Gloria, his children Melanie and Vincent, and several grandchildren.
Who was Herman Cain?
Born in Tennessee to a father who worked three jobs as a janitor, chauffeur and barber, and a mother who worked as a servant, Mr Cain went on to study for a degree in maths and a master’s in computing.
He worked variously as a Baptist minister, a radio talk show host and as a businessman.
Mr Cain was an advocate of a flat tax system – his 9-9-9 plan – and ran for office after a stint as CEO of Godfather’s Pizza.
During his run, he told reporters he would not stand for any “gotcha questions”.
“And when they ask me who is the president of Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan, I’m going to say you know, I don’t know. Do you know?”
He initially proved popular, but later found himself at the centre of a number of sexual harassment allegations.
Although he denied the accusations against him, his popularity soon suffered and he suspended his campaign. Mitt Romney later became the Republican candidate in an unsuccessful race against President Barack Obama’s bid for a second term in office.
In 2019, Mr Trump sounded him out to sit on the Federal Reserve Board, but he withdrew his nomination after several Republican senators refused to back his appointment.
Mitt Romney was also among those paying tribute to Mr Cain.
“Saddened that Herman Cain – a formidable champion of business, politics and policy – has lost his battle with Covid,” he wrote on Twitter.
Former employee Dan Calabrese also praised Mr Cain’s legacy.
“Most people heard of Herman for the first time when he ran for president in 2011. What they didn’t know was his business background,” he wrote on Mr Cain’s official website.
“They didn’t know how he had started his career as a civilian employee of the Navy. It was funny to us because sometimes political pundits portrayed him as kind of a goof – having no idea that during his time working for the Navy, he was literally a rocket scientist.”
Mr Cain had enjoyed good health in recent years, Mr Calabrese wrote, but added that the previous diagnosis with cancer meant “he was still in a high-risk group” in the current pandemic.