The Sacked Sony Music Australia boss Denis Handlin has been stripped of an honorary music award in the wake of allegations about a toxic workplace environment while he was chief executive.
In response to an ABC Four Corners report on Monday, the Queensland Music awards announced that Handlin’s 2020 honorary award for services to the Australian music industry had been revoked.
“The culture at Sony Music Australia during Denis Handlin’s tenure [has come] with significant human cost,” the QMusic statement said, authorised by its president, Natalie Strijland, and its chief executive, Kris Stewart.
“We cannot let QMusic’s acknowledgement and celebration of [Handlin’s] career stand. Toxic workplaces, be they in the office, boardroom, on stage or behind, have no future in Australian music.”
Guardian Australia requested comment from Handlin and his legal representatives about the award move but received no reply. In response to an earlier approach for comment, a lawyer acting for Handlinconfirmed that a letter of complaint had been sent to the ABC after the Four Corners report.
The program followed an earlier investigation by Guardian Australia into complaints by former Sony Australia employees about a toxic workplace culture, including allegations of bullying, intimidation and alcohol abuse, published on 21 June, the day Handlin was dismissed by Sony’s global headquarters in New York.
Acting on behalf of Handlin, the Sydney solicitor John Churchill confirmed that a formal complaint had been lodged with the ABC but declined to provide details of the complaint. An ABC spokesperson declined to comment.
Handlin, who was the global recording company’s longest-serving employee until his departure, was chief executive of Australia’s most successful record label for 37 years and had been chairman since 1996.
In 2017 he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia. Handlin is also the 2014 recipient of the Icon award from the Australian Recording Industry Association, an award he actively lobbied to be introduced in 2013 to the Aria board, of which he later became chairman.
The Guardian understands that another public recognition honouring the man once described as one of the most powerful people in the Australian music industry may now be under a cloud. In 2009 the Australian performing rights and copyright agency Apra Amcos awarded Handlin the Ted Albert award for outstanding services to Australian music.
On Tuesday Apra Amcos issued a statement describing the ABC Four Corners report as “distressing and disheartening viewing”.
“We are currently undertaking a review of our sexual harassment & harm prevention framework to ensure all parties involved with APRA AMCOS – including award recipients – respect others, act lawfully, safely and responsibly,” the statement said. “Allegations such as those made in Four Corners last night are being considered seriously as part of this review.”
None of the former Sony employees Guardian Australia spoke to as part of its investigation made any allegations of sexual harassment against Handlin himself, although they were critical of the workplace culture at the company while he was chief executive.
In response to the Guardian investigation, Sony Music Entertainment in New York provided the following statement in June: “We take all allegations from our employees very seriously and investigate them vigorously. These claims only recently came to light and we are examining them expeditiously.
“Harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behaviour is not tolerated by Sony Music at any of our companies and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for our employees. Given our ongoing inquiries, we cannot comment further.”