Ex-CEO Denis Handlin issues statement on sexual misconduct allegations at Sony Music Australia

"With issues of sexual misconduct, I always took immediate action," the label's CEO of nearly 30 years told new investigative podcast series 'Everybody Knows'

Former Sony Australia and New Zealand CEO Denis Handlin has issued his first public statement since he was dismissed from the top job earlier this year, acknowledging that “issues of sexual misconduct” had occurred during his time heading the label.

The Sony employee of 50 years and CEO since 1984 was ousted “effective immediately” from the label in June. The week prior, it was reported that Sony Music’s head office in the United States was investigating allegations of discrimination, bullying and harassment in the Australian office.

Now, Handlin has offered comment on incidents of sexual misconduct and inappropriate workplace behaviour that are alleged to have occurred during his tenure at the label, following reports by the Sydney Morning Herald, The Guardian and other publications.

Handlin’s comments were made to Everybody Knows, Schwartz Media’s new podcast series exploring abuse and harassment in Australia’s music industry. Its first episode premiered today (September 1).

No allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment have been levelled at Handlin, Everybody Knows noted. There was also no suggestion that the allegations at Sony Music’s Australian office under investigation involved Handlin.

As reported by The Saturday Paper (which is also produced by Schwartz Media), Handlin said in his position as chief executive, he had engaged lawyers and external advisers to conduct independent inquiries of allegations of sexual misconduct, and ensured counselling was provided to survivors.

“I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate or discriminatory manner,” Handlin said in a one-page letter. “At any time I was made aware of this sort of behaviour, I took action to ensure that it was stopped and didn’t occur again.

“Over the years, this included seeing people at all levels and all seniority leave the company. With issues of sexual misconduct, I always took immediate action, in accordance with the law and best practice in the interests of those involved in such traumatic and disturbing events.”

Handlin also said that he “always provided support and encouragement to women in the industry and personally championed diversity” and “promoted women as artists and employees”.

Handlin added: “It’s not appropriate for me to say anything further as most of these matters remain confidential to ensure the personal wellbeing of those involved.”

In the first episode of Everybody Knows, one former Sony Music employee described a work culture “entirely dominated by men”, saying she had witnessed “people getting on the wrong side of Denis and him saying ‘I will ruin them’, ‘they will never work in music again’, or screaming those words”.

“It’s quite, quite terrifying as a young girl in your 20s sitting there hearing the most powerful man in music say that,” she said.

In the episode, Everybody Knows host and journalist Ruby Jones said Handlin said he was “not in a position to respond to specific matters” as he is bound by “contractual and general obligations of confidentiality as a former director and chairman and CEO of Sony Music”.

Sony Music declined comment to Everybody Knows. NME has reached out to Sony Music Australia for comment.

As a result of his dismissal from Sony, Handlin was removed from his role as Chairman on the ARIA board, a position he had also held since 1984. Natalie Waller replaced Handlin as the ARIA’s first female chair.

Earlier this year an investigation at Sony Music Australia uncovered accusations pertaining to senior executive Tony Glover, the then-vice president of commercial music who was alleged to have bullied and harassed some of his colleagues. Glover, who denied the allegations, was dismissed in April.