Record Company Executive Out Following Sexual Misconduct Investigation
Republic Records — a label that counts among its roster many of the world's best-known artists, including Lorde, Ariana Grande and The Weeknd — has announced that the company and its president, Charlie Walk, are going their separate ways.
The announcement followed an internal investigation begun after an accusation of sexual harassment was made against Walk by a former coworker. In a statement provided to NPR Music, Republic Records writes that "Republic Records and Charlie Walk have mutually agreed to part ways." The split was first reported by Variety.
Tristan Coopersmith was the first to publicly accuse Walk of misconduct, writing in a blog post published Jan. 29 that, while working for Walk at an unspecified place and time, she had "shuddered at the idea of being called into [his] office, where [he] would stealthily close the door and make lewd comments about my body and share [his] fantasies of having sex with me. I was 27. No previous experience had taught me what to do in such a situation. So I laughed it off, gently reminded [him] that you were married with children, and tried to change the subject. But you were relentless. You would instant message me throughout the day making sexual remarks."
In a statement to Variety, Coopersmith said: "I applaud all the women who shared their truth and I am gratified that Universal created a safe process for them to do so."
After Coopersmith's blog post, four more women came forward with stories of similar treatment by Walk. Those four women — Pam Kaye, who says she worked with Walk for seven years while at Columbia Records, Kate Harold, a former executive assistant, "Emily," a former employee in Republic's marketing department, and "Melanie," whom Walk hired in 2014 — all said they experienced relentless lewd remarks and inappropriate or forced touching by Walk while working for him.
Emily also claims that a request for career advice after her time at the company was met with a self-portrait in which his partially exposed penis was visible. Four of those allegations were first reported by Rolling Stone on Feb. 22.
Kaye, who now works in promotions at RCA Records, confirmed the details of her allegations in an interview with NPR Music in February. Kaye began working at Columbia Records — like RCA Records, a Sony Music subsidiary — in 1997, as the assistant to the head of rock promotion at the label, in the same department as Walk.
In 1998, Kaye says Walk "stuck in his tongue in my ear"; in 2002, Walk "rubbed up against" Kaye while she was dancing at a club and "exposed himself"; in 2004, Kaye was in a car with Walk, when he "took his hand and put it down the front of my pants."
Walk has denied the allegations.
"I did not do these things, and this is not who I am," he wrote, in a statement provided to NPR Music.
NPR's request for comment and clarification from Republic in February was referred to Universal Music Group (UMG), Republic's parent company, which shared a previously issued statement from the label, which wrote it had "retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of this matter and have encouraged anyone who has relevant information to speak to the firm's investigators. Mr. Walk has been placed on leave, and will remain on leave for the duration of the investigation."
Walk's relationship with Fox Television, where he was a host — alongside Sean "Diddy" Combs, DJ Khaled and Meghan Trainor — of the reality competition show The Four, came to an end shortly after Coopersmith's accusations. When reached, Fox responded with a statement issued the same day Coopersmith's letter was published:
"We have only recently learned of these past allegations regarding Mr. Walk. We are currently reviewing this matter and are committed to fostering a safe environment on all of our shows."
The network offered no additional statement on Walk's status, but quietly removed his image from all materials promoting the show shortly afterwards.
For its top prize, the program's judges become "key players on the winner's team," listed as Sean "Diddy" Combs, DJ Khaled, Meghan Trainor and, now, Republic Records.
Walk's ouster is the most high-profile and clear-cut example of "post-Weinstein" fallout within the music's upper echelons, but not the first.
Russell Simmons, a co-founder of the rap label Def Jam, recused himself from the leadership of his companies following two accusations of rape — but before being accused by more than dozen women. Simmons is facing two anonymous lawsuits for rape. He has denied the allegations.
James Levine, who conducted New York's Metropolitan Opera for decades, was fired by the company earlier this month following an investigation of sexual assault said to span decades. The conductor subsequently sued the company, alleging breach of contract.
An unnamed executive for Warner Music Group in Sweden was placed on leave last November, after 2,000 women working in Sweden's music industry published a striking open letter detailing anonymized stories of shocking abuse and assault within that country's music industry. That was soon followed by another open letter, signed by Australian women working in that country's music business.
The singer R. Kelly met opposition last year at a tour stop in Fulton Country, Georgia following a lengthy investigation by BuzzFeed on an alleged "sex cult" Kelly had maintained for years. Afterwards, another woman broke a nondisclosure agreement in order to go public with further allegations against the singer involving a minor. RCA, Kelly's record label, has refused to comment on the allegations, while Kelly has repeatedly denied them.
The terse statement accompanying Walk's ouster recalls another, from one year ago, that saw L.A. Reid removed as head of Epic Records amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
That statement, from Epic Records corporate parent Sony Music, read: "L.A. Reid will be leaving the company." Reid has not directly addressed the allegation, but has gone on to found a new company, Hitco, which recently signed the rapper Big Boi.
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