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By Ben Fritz and Joe Flint
Amazon.com Inc. has suspended the head of its entertainment studio, Roy Price, in the wake of allegations of mismanagement and sexual harassment and criticism of his close business relationship with movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
"Roy Price is on leave of absence effective immediately," said Amazon spokesman Craig Berman. He didn't provide an explanation of the move.
Mr. Price's suspension comes soon after a female producer went public about a 2015 sexual-harassment complaint she made against him and after actress Rose McGowan unleashed a storm of criticism at the company for being in business with Mr. Weinstein, the former Weinstein Co. co-chairman who was ousted over the weekend amid numerous allegations of sexual harassment.
Isa Dick Hackett, a producer on the Amazon program "The Man in the High Castle," said in an interview Thursday that Mr. Price made crude remarks toward her in July 2015 while the two were on their way to a party and then continued to make lewd suggestions to her at the event.
Reached by phone, Mr. Price declined to comment.
Mr. Price allegedly boasted about his genitalia to her in a car and later at the party whispered in her ear that they should engage in a specific sex act, she said. Ms. Hackett first publicly accused Mr. Price of such behavior to the Hollywood Reporter.
Ms. Hackett the next day after the 2015 incident reported it to other executives at Amazon, and an outside investigator contacted her as part of an inquiry, she said. Ms. Hackett said she never received an explanation as to the results of the investigation.
In a statement to The Wall Street Journal, Ms. Hackett said, "it would be wonderful if companies could lead by example by establishing a zero-tolerance policy for harassment." She said she was inspired by the women who came forward to speak out about Mr. Weinstein and hoped that sharing her story "inspires others, particularly those who cannot speak out for themselves."
Amazon is developing two television series that would be co-productions with Weinstein Co. In addition, Weinstein Co. earlier this year purchased a script written by Mr. Price's fiancée, Lila Feinberg. The Amazon executive had previously pressured staffers at his company to buy the script, before a conflict-of-interest review caused the company to drop the project, called "12 Parties," according to Amazon Studios employees.
Mr. Berman said Amazon is "reviewing our options for the projects we have with the Weinstein Co."
Weinstein Co. executives didn't respond to questions about whether they knew Ms. Feinberg was Mr. Price's fiancée when they bought the project.
Ms. McGowan, who has been very vocal on Twitter about Mr. Weinstein, who she has said raped her in 1997, on Thursday criticized Amazon for being in business with Weinstein Co. and implored Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos to cut ties with the production company.
A spokeswoman for Harvey Weinstein said in a statement, "Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein."
Amazon Studios for months has been struggling with a host of problems, including low viewership for some of its signature programs, flagging employee morale, challenges shifting its strategy and criticisms from top Hollywood talent.
David E. Kelley, the Emmy-winning creator of "Boston Legal" and "Big Little Lies," who also created the Amazon series "Goliath," told The Wall Street Journal that Amazon's entertainment business is "a bit of a 'Gong Show.'"
Shawn Ryan, the creator of "The Shield" who also worked on an Amazon program, said the company's practices "put everything in chaos" and aren't "artist friendly."
The suspension of Mr. Price is the latest fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal that has preoccupied Hollywood for the last several days. Since disclosures in the New York Times and New Yorker of multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault by the movie mogul, other stars have come forward to share their own stories or to distance themselves from Mr. Weinstein.
Albert Cheng, chief operating officer of Amazon Studios, will run the division on an interim basis, said a person at the company.
Amazon Studios is holding a town hall for employees Friday morning to discuss Mr. Price's leave of absence, the person said.
Write to Ben Fritz at email@example.com and Joe Flint at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
October 12, 2017 22:46 ET (02:46 GMT)
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