Kenny MacPherson – the CEO of Hipgnosis Songs Group – has been accused of sexual battery and harassment by a former employee, according to a new lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed by Sara Lewis, who worked alongside MacPherson at the music publishing company Chrysalis when he was president. Filed on Wednesday (October 4), the suit lists MacPherson and BMG as defendants, and claims that his actions while in the role pushed her out of the industry.
According to the allegations, Lewis claims she “endured an onslaught of unwanted sexual advances by MacPherson”, and that the music mogul “unabashedly used his power and authority” to try and ensure her compliance. She also accuses MacPherson of grooming and harassing her over numerous years, including instances of touching, groping and sexual assault.
In a statement shared with Rolling Stone, MacPherson’s attorney stated that they “vehemently deny all allegations made against Mr. MacPherson in Ms. Lewis’ unverified complaint filed”.
In the suit, it is outlined that the company – which represented clients like OutKast and Thom Yorke – hired Lewis in the summer of 2002, and MacPherson joined shortly thereafter. It also alleges that he began showing Lewis increasingly more attention during their time working together, which soon “devolved from mentorship to inappropriate behaviour”.
These reportedly included “physically invading Sara’s personal space” and inviting himself back to her hotel room where he supposedly touched her thigh and confessed his love for her. Later, the instances escalated, the claim states, and would see MacPherson frequently corner her in the office, attempt to kiss and physically grope her, demand access to her at all hours of the day, and try to initiate phone sex.
Hipgnosis – which owns catalogue rights for artists including Justin Bieber and Nile Rodgers – confirmed MacPherson was placed on a leave of absence on Tuesday morning (October 3) and shared a statement (via Variety).
“Hipgnosis Songs Fund has a policy of zero-tolerance to harassment or abuse,” it reads. “While these historic allegations relate to a period 15 years before Hipgnosis was founded, Kenny MacPherson was placed on leave of absence from Hipgnosis Songs Group as soon as it became aware of the allegations. Our rigorous procedures for dealing with such matters have commenced.”
Additionally BMG, who later merged with Chrysalis, told the outlet: “BMG stands solidly against all forms of discrimination, harassment, and abuse and we are shocked and dismayed by the allegations made by Sara Lewis. As a point of fact, BMG did not exist until October 1, 2008, years after the alleged events had occurred, and did not acquire Chrysalis until years later in 2011.”
In the lawsuit, Lewis detailed experiencing emotional distress caused by MacPherson’s actions and also stated that it led to anxiety and depression. The suit adds that MacPherson promoted her as director of A&R in an attempt to be closer to her and that his behaviour was known by other employees at Chrysalis, who allegedly spread rumours that they were having an affair.
Further details go on to recall a 2005 business trip to Chicago, in which MacPherson is accused of inviting himself into her hotel room under the guise of work and performing forcible oral sex on her while she repeatedly said “no”.
More incidents are detailed in the suit, and Lewis also states that when she tried to tell other employees about his behaviour there were attempts to “sweep it under the rug”, and that she was gradually shut out of meetings and was ignored by staff. When she began to look for work elsewhere, MacPherson retaliated by branding her as “un-hirable”, the suit alleges. Due to this, it adds, she took a large demotion and pay cut to work for a smaller company, but ultimately left the industry.
Lewis is suing for sexual battery, sexual harassment, negligent hiring and wrongful termination, among other claims. As reported by Variety, the suit was filed under the California Sexual Abuse and Cover-Up Accountability Act – a law introduced last year that opens a one-year window to file lawsuits that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.
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