Walt Disney Co. executives said Thursday that the company has fired the top staff producer of its rock music division, Hollywood Records, following complaints from female employees that he sexually harassed them.
The alleged incidents--the first such allegations of sexual harassment at a record company since a scandal rocked the music industry in 1991--involve Mark Hudson, a Los Angeles songwriter and producer who over the last 20 years has worked on records for such pop stars as Alice Cooper and Aerosmith.
Hudson could not be reached for comment. Hollywood Records executives confirmed that Hudson, who was appointed last July as staff producer, has been terminated as a result of the sexual harassment complaints. Disney and Hollywood Records said they have a strict policy against sexual harassment and rigorously enforce it.
The firing comes as all six major record companies have instituted tough policies and programs to crack down on sexual harassment. That followed a Los Angeles Times article on Nov. 3, 1991, disclosing that charges of misconduct had been lodged against several top recording executives.
One month after Anita Hill testified against then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, a secretary filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in Santa Monica against Geffen Records and its parent corporations, claiming they had tolerated "outrageous sexually deviant behavior" by a top executive for years.
Suing the company for assault, battery and sexual harassment, the secretary claimed that her boss had repeatedly harassed her, including masturbating on her desk.
The scandal prompted an industrywide debate and closed-door boardroom discussions on the prevalence of sexual harassment in the music industry. In the aftermath, Geffen Records fired the executive involved and settled the harassment case out of court with his secretary at a cost exceeding $500,000, sources said. A second case involving the same executive, filed a year later, was settled for about $100,000.
At Burbank-based Hollywood Records, women began complaining to senior managers last summer about Hudson's behavior, alleging that he verbally harassed them with lewd remarks and pressured them repeatedly to date him, sources said.
Hollywood Records executives interviewed Hudson regarding the complaints and subsequently required him to visit a Disney-recommended specialist for counseling, sources said. Although Hollywood Records transferred two women employees to other departments, several other women continued to lodge complaints against Hudson as recently as last October, sources said.
It wasn't until last Thursday, however, that Hollywood Records executives decided to take action--two days after Seconds magazine, a trade publication focusing on rock 'n' roll culture, published an interview with a former actress who appeared in the Broadway play "Annie" and who is now a recording artist with Sony's Epic Records.
In an interview in the magazine, the recording artist related an incident of alleged harassment involving Hudson.