Neil Portnow, the former CEO of the Recording Academy (the organization that puts on the Grammy Awards), says recent claims that his contract was terminated after he was accused sexual assault are untrue.
The allegation was made by his successor Deborah Dugan, who was sacked as CEO last week. Dugan claims that she was forced out in retaliation for a complaint she filed internally accusing the Recording Academy of tolerating sexual harassment and corruption. Her allegation regarding Portnow has captured the media’s attention.
According to her new complaint, Portnow “allegedly raped a female recording artist,” and that this “was, upon information and belief, the real reason his contract was not renewed.” The alleged victim is not named, but is described as “foreign.”
Dugan also claims that she was sexually harassed by Academy executive Joel Katz; that there are “voting irregularities” in the Grammy nomination process; and that board members who vote for Grammy nominees sometimes have personal relationships with the artists, among other conflicts of interest.
Portnow responded to the accusation this morning.
“This document is filled with inaccurate, false and outrageous and terribly hurtful claims against me,” he wrote in a statement, continuing:
“The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.”
An attorney for Joel Katz said Dugan’s claim that she was sexually harassed by his client is also false.
“Ms. Dugan’s allegations of harassment and her description of a dinner at the steakhouse in the Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel are false and Mr. Katz categorically and emphatically denies her version of that evening,” he said. “This dinner meeting was 2½ months before Ms. Dugan started her job. Mr. Katz believed they had a productive and professional meeting in a restaurant where a number of members of the Board of Trustees of the Academy, and others, were dining.
“Ms. Dugan’s claims are made, for the first time, 7 months after this dinner took place. Mr. Katz will cooperate in any and all investigations or lawsuits by telling the absolute and whole truth. Hopefully Ms. Dugan will do the same.”
This will obviously be a divisive story, and potentially a major scandal for the Recording Academy. Updates to follow.