'The Rules Are Very, Very Different' After Amato, Portnow, Gunn Firings

'The Rules Are Very, Very Different' After Amato, Portnow, Gunn Firings

In the wake of high-profile dismissals of Billboard CEO John Amato, Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow, and Disney writer/director James Gunn, music industry executives are expressing insecurity over where things stand — and constructing and reinforcing brand-new rules for their offices.

For many, it was surreal to witness Billboard’s former CEO, John Amato, go down in flames.  For months, we heard rumors of internal dissatisfaction with Amato’s editorial decisions, particularly those relating to his personal friend, former Republic Records president Charlie Walk.

The rumors were that Amato was intentionally burying stories about Walk to protect a friend.  Other publications, including Digital Music News, were reporting more openly and frequently about mounting sexual abuse accusations against the powerful executive, as well as high-profile battles against Walk’s accusers and critics.

The ugly mess came to an end in March, when Universal Music Group, owner of Republic, fired Walk.  Or, maybe it was just the beginning for Amato.  Earlier this month, Amato was dismissed from both Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter, which he also oversaw, for sexual misconduct and protecting a sexual abuser.

But a number executives were quick to question why Amato was shown the door, exactly.  In reality, the reasons for the dismissal weren’t disclosed, and in conversations with Digital Music News, many industry executives felt that was a problem.  Valence Media, which now owns both publications, merely pointed to findings in an internal investigation, and that was that.

Amato was toast.

But raising even greater concern is what happened next.

Before Amato could pack his things, The Daily Beast ran a brutal teardown.  It included an allegation that Amato had behaved inappropriately towards at least one young woman staffer, while also making inappropriate comments during some company events.

But the Daily Beast also dragged Amato into a story about another Billboard executive, who apparently made lewd comments one night about a strip club and having sex with strippers.  “It was totally crazy because it wasn’t even about [Amato] — but still totally affected him,” one exec shared.

Of course, none of that is good behavior, and none of that is helpful towards Billboard’s growth goals.  But according to one source, it’s possible that Amato was simply being overprotective against a possible libel lawsuit from Walk, whose lawyers (who also worked for Harvey Weinstein) were certainly intimidating.  Along the same lines, none of the allegations had been proven against Walk.