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Gorbachev Takes Russians to the Edge in New Pizza Hut Commercial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has moved from Perestroika to pizza in his new role as pitchman for the Edge, Pizza Hut’s newest entry in the fast-food wars.

In a television commercial to be televised during the broadcast of the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the former president escorts his 10-year-old granddaughter, Anastasia, into a Moscow Pizza Hut, igniting a brief argument among diners over Gorbachev’s place in history.

A diner who chastises Gorbachev, 66, for leading his country toward economic ruin eventually bows to the will of other customers who praise the leader for clearing the way for Russians to enjoy pizza. The 30-second commercial was filmed at a Moscow Pizza Hut.

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Pizza Hut is counting on the Edge, which was introduced in October, to help it gain ground in a fierce price war with competitors. The Dallas-based chain is spending $45 million to advertise the product, which gets its name from the fact that toppings cover the pizza edge to edge.

Pizza Hut has been losing sales to competitors such as Papa John’s International, which is using Pizza Hut co-founder Frank Carney--now a Papa John’s franchisee--in commercials.

Tricon Global Restaurants Inc., Pizza Hut’s Louisville, Ky.-based parent company, recently said it would take a $425-million charge to close almost 600 restaurants out of 30,000 restaurants worldwide--a high percentage of which are reportedly under-performing Pizza Hut locations.

Pizza Hut said Monday that Gorbachev is donating his undisclosed fee to his nonprofit International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies.

“I am in the process of creating a library and the Perestroika archive,” Gorbachev said in a news release issued by Pizza Hut. “This endeavor requires certain funds, and everything I receive from this project I’ll put into the library and archive.”

Gorbachev, who is credited with helping to end the Cold War before being forced from office in 1991, recently traveled to Hollywood, where he shared a stage with Pierce Brosnan to promote Green Cross International, a nonprofit environmental group he co-founded in 1993.


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