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Grammys CEO Deborah Dugan Fires Back, Promising to ‘Expose’ What Led to Her Suspension

"What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told," said Dugan's lawyer, Bryan Freedman.

In the wake of her suspension as Recording Academy president and CEO, which blindsided industry players in and outside of the academy late Thursday night, Deborah Dugan said through her attorney that she’ll soon “expose” what really happened.

“What has been reported is not nearly the story that needs to be told,” said Dugan’s lawyer, Bryan Freedman, in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy, a public nonprofit.”


Dugan took over the nonprofit in charge of the Grammy Awards in August 2019, replacing Neil Portnow, whose controversial comments at the 2018 ceremony that women should “step up” led to his resignation.

But in a twist that has sent shock waves throughout the industry, the Academy placed her on administrative leave just over a week ahead of the 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony, citing “serious concerns” brought to the board of trustees’ attention. Those concerns included a “formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team,” according to a statement provided to Billboard. The nature of the allegation is currently unclear. 

The Board has hired two independent third-party investigators to conduct independent investigations of the allegations. Board Chair Harvey Mason Jr. will serve as interim president and CEO.

The New York Times reported that, less than three weeks ago, Dugan sent a memo to the Academy’s head of human resources, detailing her concerns about voting irregularities, conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement at the Academy, leading her to conclude “something was seriously amiss.”


Dugan was named the Academy’s first female president/CEO following a months-long search for a leader who would shake up tradition at the Academy, long seen as a boys’ club. One of her first moves was to install an 18-member Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion, and in her first interview as CEO in September, she told Billboard that she envisioned the Academy “having a diverse and inclusive role and being a model for the industry.” 

Dugan formerly served as CEO of (RED), the AIDS nonprofit co-founded by U2‘s Bono in 2006.