Antonio “L.A.” Reid’s abrupt exit from the top job at Sony Music Entertainment’s Epic Records followed a claim by a female assistant alleging “unlawful harassment of an employee,” sources tell Billboard.
Sources said the claim prompted a company investigation into his conduct. The labels he has run have included Epic, Universal Music Group’s Island/Def Jam and LaFace Records, which was co-founded by Reid in 1989 and eventually absorbed into Sony.
In a letter to Sony, the claimant’s attorney detailed alleged harassment his client had faced on a daily basis, which included alleged inappropriate remarks about her appearance and clothing and alleged propositions that caused her embarrassment and distress, making it impossible for her to continue working at the label. The letter — the contents of which were relayed to Billboard — threatened litigation if a settlement wasn’t reached. It wasn’t clear if Sony’s investigation had confirmed any of the letter’s allegations, and one person in Reid’s camp said the letter contained inaccuracies.
A lawyer for Reid declined to comment. The claimant and her lawyer declined to comment.
Reid’s departure is the second high-profile exit at Sony since Columbia Records chairman/CEO Rob Stringer took over as CEO of Sony April 1. Last month Sony said Dr. Luke (Lukasz Gottwald) would leave the CEO role at its Kemosabe Records amid the hit-maker’s protracted legal battle with singer-songwriter Kesha, who sued Dr. Luke three years ago in New York court for alleged sexual abuse. Dr. Luke has denied the charges and sued Kesha for defamation, claims that are still pending.
Reid, 60, was the only current black label CEO at the three major record companies, and had rebuilt Epic into a high-profile generator of pop and urban-leaning hits, from artists such as Meghan Trainor, Future, Fifth Harmony, Travi$ Scott and DJ Khaled, who currently has the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2016, Reid relocated the label from New York to Los Angeles, and into new Culver City headquarters.
Sony confirmed in a one-sentence press release Saturday that Reid had left the company — two days after his exit – but declined to comment further.
Stringer took over as CEO from Doug Morris, who now serves as chairman after running Sony since 2011 and before that running Universal Music Group, where he also employed Reid. Sony said Morris declined to comment.
Reid, a three-time Grammy winner, first made his imprint in the music business as the drummer of the ‘80s R&B band The Deele, which charted such hits as “Body Talk” and “Two Occasions.” He and fellow group member/guitarist Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds left The Deele to establish LaFace Records in 1989 following the pair’s burgeoning success writing and producing hits for such acts as the Whispers (“Rock Steady”), Bobby Brown (“Don’t Be Cruel”) and Whitney Houston (“I’m Your Baby Tonight”).
Atlanta-based LaFace, Reid’s joint venture with Arista Records, became a pivotal force in the music industry with a stable of hit-making acts that included TLC, Toni Braxton, Usher and OutKast. When LaFace was later merged into Arista in 2000, Reid was appointed Arista’s president/CEO and oversaw the release of Usher’s multi-platinum album Confessions and OutKast’s Grammy album of the year winner Speakerboxxx/The Love Below as well as signing Whitney Houston to an ill-fated multi-album deal valued at $100 million.
After Reid left Arista in 2004, Morris — then head of Universal Music — appointed Reid to be chairman/CEO of Universal’s Island Def Jam Group that same year. Under his watch, IDJ released Mariah Carey’s comeback album The Emancipation of Mimi and logged additional success stories with Kanye West, Rihanna and Justin Bieber.
He left IDJ seven years later when Morris became Sony Music’s chief and appointed Reid as chairman/CEO of Epic.
Sony hasn’t indicated who might replace Reid. Sylvia Rhone, president of Epic, has served as Reid’s second in command.