Clifford Hudson has spent the last 30 years of his career at Sonic Corp., an Oklahoma City-based, publicly-held company that owns, operates and franchises SONIC Drive-In restaurants (NASDAQ: SONC). Today, he is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of this public company with 3,500 franchised and company-operated drive-in restaurants.
Hudson was named chairman of Sonic Corp in January 2000, and has been chief executive officer (CEO) of Sonic Corp. since April 1995. Prior to that time, he served the company in a variety of capacities, including general counsel, chief financial officer and chief operating officer.
During Hudson’s tenure as CEO of SONIC, system-wide sales have grown from $880 million to almost $4 billion. The company’s enterprise value (the public value of its common stock plus debt) has grown from approximately $200 million to more than $1.5 billion.
In his position, Hudson has earned achievements such as the 2004 Silver Plate – Foodservice Operator of the Year Award from International Foodservice Manufacturers Association and 2000 Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators (MUFSO) Golden Chain Award from Nation’s Restaurant News. Most recently, SONIC has also received national recognition from publications such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, QSR and Restaurants & Institutions. He has been a guest on various national business programs including CNBC’s Mad Money, Squawkbox and Power Lunch, as well as various Bloomberg news programs.
Hudson has been affiliated with many nonprofit and community activities. He served as chairman of the board of directors of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), a presidential appointment, from 1994-2001. He served as chairman of the Oklahoma City School Board from 2001-2008, a position created in 2000 as part of a $530 million turnaround of a 40,000 student, inner-city Oklahoma City Public School system. In recognition of this public service, Hudson received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Oklahoma City University. He currently serves as trustee of the Ford Foundation (New York) and is the immediate past chairman of the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. He also serves as the vice chairman of the Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
Through his education work, Hudson has been involved with art and music programs, including leading a SONIC-sponsored music group, The SONIC Tones. In addition to performing with the Oklahoma City symphony in 2003, The SONIC Tones performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio through the Fortune magazine-sponsored “Battle of Corporate Bands”.
Hudson graduated from the University of Oklahoma, which he attended with Phi Beta Kappa and President’s Leadership scholarships. In 1998, Hudson was honored as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Oklahoma College of Arts and Sciences, where he serves as a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Board of Visitors. In 2001, he received the University’s Regents Award from its board of regents, and in 2011 received an honorary doctoral degree in humane letters from the university.
Hudson graduated from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he was a member of the legal honor society, Phi Delta Phi. In 1979, he served as an editor of the International Law Journal, a publication of the Association of Student International Law Societies. He also serves as chairman of the board of visitors of Georgetown University Law Center. In 2006, Hudson was awarded the Paul Dean Award for service to the law school, and in 2014 was awarded the John Carroll Award, the Alumni Association’s highest award.
He and his wife, Leslie, an epidemiologist, have two sons and live in Oklahoma City.