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Greene Out as President of Grammys

Music: Resignation comes after emergency board meeting to review probe of his behavior.

April 28, 2002|CHUCK PHILIPS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

C. Michael Greene, the executive who transformed the Grammy Music Awards from a minor industry ritual into a global television event, resigned Saturday night amid questions over his personal behavior and his leadership at the organization, Grammy sources said.

Greene's resignation as president took place during an emergency board meeting at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to discuss a sexual harassment probe commissioned by the Grammy organization, the sources said.

It was unclear, however, precisely what prompted Greene's sudden departure.

The extraordinary gathering was attended by 38 Grammy trustees who flew in from 12 chapters across the nation.

Greene, who had three years left on his contract, will exit the organization with as much as an $8-million severance buyout, Grammy sources said.

The 52-year-old Greene was unavailable for comment. Representatives for the National Assn. of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Santa Monica-based nonprofit group that stages the popular annual Grammy telecast, also could not be reached late Saturday.

During his 14-year reign as Grammy president, Greene became one of the most powerful and controversial figures in the music industry.

The Grammy Awards offer record companies worldwide exposure that can be worth millions of dollars in additional album sales. Winning a Grammy helps boost music sales, as does a performance by musicians on the telecast. Greene was instrumental in deciding which acts received the coveted TV performance slots and which judges were picked for the blue-ribbon awards panels.

Greene came under renewed scrutiny in February when Grammy trustees paid a former female Grammy executive $650,000 to settle allegations of sexual abuse against Greene.

Greene said he had never sexually harassed anyone at the academy, but said he chose not to fight the payout because he did not want to disrupt the organization.

After that case, the board hired veteran private detective Jack Palladino to investigate further. Palladino's firm spent several months interviewing dozens of former Grammy employees and put together a lengthy report, which was delivered several weeks ago to an advisory committee run by Grammy Chairman Garth Fundis, Grammy sources said. Fundis is a Nashville record producer who is an unpaid Grammy volunteer.

Discussions between lawyers representing Greene and the academy grew tense last week after Greene learned that Fundis planned to fly in most of the 42-member board for an emergency trustee meeting on Saturday to address the report's findings.

Greene Warning of Suit Limited Disclosures

In the days leading up to the meeting, Greene's attorneys warned the academy that he might sue if any information from the report became public, Grammy sources said. As a result, the advisory committee decided to take the precautionary step of disclosing only selected findings to the board.

On Thursday, lawyers for Greene and the academy began to discuss his possible resignation. By late Friday night, they had reached an agreement, subject to board approval.

The Saturday meeting started at noon and ran until about 8 p.m., and included a brief synopsis of the sexual harassment probe, for which Greene was present. After the findings, Greene gave an emotional resignation speech in which he cited philosophical differences with the Grammy board and did not want to drag the organization through nasty litigation, according to Grammy sources close to the negotiations.

A lengthy discussion followed Greene's speech, in which some board members voiced their support for the embattled executive. But the board ultimately accepted his resignation, Grammy sources said.

After Greene left the room, the board voted to approve his severance package.

Greene's exit marks the end of an era at the Grammys--a nonprofit organization that had become inextricably linked to his own strong personality. His compensation package last year exceeded $2 million--nearly four times what the academy's philanthropic arm dispersed to indigent artists--and his job perquisites included an annual membership in the exclusive Bel-Air Country Club and a leased Mercedes sedan.

The shake-up signals a new direction on the part of the academy's board. In recent months, Greene's alleged behavior sparked a boardroom revolt led by Grammy Chairman Fundis.

Greene's resignation follows a year of controversy during which he was accused of assaulting and sexually harassing a female executive who ran the Grammy's human resources department.

Last July attorneys for the Grammy executive, Jill Marie Geimer, threatened to sue the academy, and raised allegations of physical, sexual and psychological abuse by Greene over a one-year period.

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