U.S.

Frank Olson, Executive Who Linked O.J. Simpson With Hertz, Dies at 91

Frank A. Olson, who as a top executive of Hertz cast the running back O.J. Simpson as the star of the company’s commercials — a corporate marriage that shined up both parties and that lasted two decades, until Mr. Simpson was charged in a double homicide in 1994 — died at his home in Palm Beach, Fla., on Wednesday, the same day Mr. Simpson died. Mr. Olson was 91.

The cause was complications of Covid, his sons, Christopher and Blake, said.

The coincidental timing of the deaths of Mr. Olson, who had steered Hertz through years of corporate turbulence, and Mr. Simpson, the athlete turned pitchman turned infamous criminal defendant, linked the two men in a way that Mr. Olson had once embraced but that he later distanced himself from.

More than business partners, Mr. Olson and Mr. Simpson, both San Francisco natives, forged an alliance, beginning in the 1970s, that spoke of that mutually beneficial zone where corporate and social life intertwine. Mr. Olson, an avid golfer, sponsored Mr. Simpson for membership in the private Arcola Country Club in Paramus, N.J., where in 1992 Mr. Simpson, a former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer, became the first Black member.

In a letter that Mr. Simpson left at his Los Angeles home before his arrest in the stabbing murders of his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald L. Goldman, he listed friends he was sending “love and thanks to.” Mr. Olson was one of them.

“I took him places where I think very few Black men had ever been,” Mr. Olson said in the acclaimed 2016 documentary “O.J.: Made in America.”

Mr. Simpson was 76 when he died of cancer at his home in Las Vegas.

The idea of featuring him in Hertz commercials to symbolize speedy service, beginning in 1974, originated with the company’s ad agency. But because Mr. Simpson was Black and most Hertz customers where white businessmen, the choice made the agency nervous, according to a 1994 article in The Washington Post. So the decision was kicked up to Mr. Olson, who at the time was executive vice president and general manager of the rental-car division. (The company also rented trucks.)

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