Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan Placed on Administrative Leave One Week Prior to 2020 Grammys
Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan has been placed on administrative leave just over a week before the 2020 Grammy Awards are set to air, after "serious concerns" came to the attention of the board of trustees.
Sources tell Billboard that Dugan, who took the reins as President and CEO at the beginning of August in 2019, turned out not to be a good match for the organization virtually from the start of her tenure, though they would not address the specifics of the misconduct allegations.
“It’s heartbreaking for people who care deeply about the organization that someone they trusted to fill that position would so quickly become so at odds with the organization,” one person close to the Recording Academy laments. “Once there were some indications that she was not cooperating with the staff and the board, everything unraveled surprisingly quickly and in a very complex way. It wasn’t like a single incident. It was a series of issues. I think it goes way beyond not just being a good fit."
In a statement to Billboard, the Recording Academy said Dugan is placed on leave effective immediately "in light of concerns raised to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team."
The board has also hired two independent investigators to look into the allegations. Board of Trustees Chair Harvey Mason, Jr., will serve as interim President and CEO of the Recording Academy until the investigation concludes.
According to the statement, "The Board determined this action to be necessary in order to restore the confidence of the Recording Academy’s Membership, repair Recording Academy employee morale, and allow the Recording Academy to focus on its mission of serving all music creators."
Sources differ on the nature of the friction between the Recording Academy rank and file and Dugan, with some blaming Dugan for not familiarizing herself with the past in order to know how to best move forward. One source says Dugan met with resistance at every turn from staff who were loyal to former President and CEO Neil Portnow and set in their way of doing things.
“She was a huge source of discomfort for everyone there because she believed she was coming to be an agent of change, but they don’t really want change at all,” that source observes. “They had entrenched ways of doing business and anything she tried to change was met with, ‘That’s not how we do it.’”
In May 2018, the Recording Academy announced that Portnow would leave his position when his contract ran out in July of 2019. The move came after Portnow drew intense criticism for a remark he made after the 2018 Grammy Awards. When only one woman won an on-camera award, Portnow said female artists needed to "step up." Dugan's subsequent appointment was widely viewed as a move toward greater diversity and inclusion.
Though Dugan has only been placed on leave, not fired, a source tells Billboard she is not expected to return. Billboard reports that Dugan has hired an attorney to represent her in the matter. Billboard was unable to reach Dugan for comment.
The turmoil is not expected to directly impact the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony, which is set to air live on Jan. 26. Dugan had already planned to break with Portnow's tradition and not address the audience onstage during the broadcast, so she will not have to be replaced or written out.
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