Republic Records Group president Charlie Walk has been placed on leave in the wake of sexual-misconduct allegations against him in a bombshell open letter posted Monday by Life Lab founder Tristan Coopersmith, with whom he worked at Columbia Records several years ago. According to Deadline, a second woman — a former Universal marketing executive who worked with Walk — came forward in recent days, alleging that he sent her sexually explicit photos and videos of himself and attempted to lure her into a hotel room.
“Republic Records is committed to a safe workplace environment where employees are treated fairly and respectfully”, the company said in a statement. “We have retained an outside law firm to conduct an independent investigation of this matter and have encouraged anyone who has relevant information to speak to the firm’s investigators. Mr. Walk has been placed on leave, and will remain in leave for the duration of the investigation.”
Walk also will not appear in next week’s season finale of Fox’s “The Four: Battle for Stardom.” A judge on the show alongside Sean Combs, DJ Khaled, and Meghan Trainor, Walk is still slated to appear in Thursday night’s episode, which was pre-taped.
Walk made the decision himself to withdraw from the finale. “Out of respect for the contestants, my fellow judges and everyone involved with the show, I have made the decision not to attend the finale of ‘The Four,'” he said in a statement provided to Variety. “I do not want my presence to be a distraction. Needless to say this is very upsetting. Although I continue to support the ‘Me Too’ movement, there has been an extreme rush to judgment against me in this particular case which is unfair and inconsistent with anything that even actually happened. I welcome any investigation so that in short order these unfounded and hurtful accusations can be put to rest.”
His future with the franchise is unclear, as the ITV Studios show was considered near a renewal order for a second season. Fox declined to comment.
In Coopersmith’s letter, posted on her website, lifelabhb.com, she says daily meetings with the record mogul and conversations peppered with lewd and suggestive comments made her feel “sick to my stomach.” She also describes an encounter with Walk during which, Coopersmith alleges, “You cornered me and pushed me into your bedroom and onto your bed. The bed you shared with your wife.”
Republic is home to Ariana Grande, Hailee Steinfeld, The Weeknd and Drake, among other hit acts.
In a statement provided to Variety after the allegations became public, Walk commented: “It is very upsetting to learn of this untrue allegation made by someone who worked with me 15 years ago, without incident. There has never been a single HR claim against me at any time during my 25+ year career, spanning three major companies. I have consistently been a supporter of the women’s movement and this is the first time I have ever heard of this or any other allegation — and it is false.”
Coopersmith, a former record company staffer who worked with Walk while he was an executive at Sony Music (Walk had long stints at Columbia Records and Epic Records, both Sony labels), is now a licensed psychotherapist helping others “heal and release past wounds,” according to her website.
In the letter, she tells her story of being a 27-year old with dreams of making it in the music industry and getting hired for a dream job heading her own department. Walk took her to backstage meet-and-greets, she writes, and introduced her to moguls like former Columbia Records head Donnie Ienner, YouTube music chief Lyor Cohen, and hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons (since accused by several women of sexual assault), as well as superstars like Prince. But the dream turned to “nightmares,” as she claims Walk made unwanted advances even as his wife was in the next room.
“For a year I shuddered at the idea of being called into your office, where you would stealthily close the door and make lewd comments about my body and share your fantasies of having sex with me. I was 27,” she wrote. “No previous experience had taught me what to do in such a situation. So I laughed it off, gently reminded you that you were married with children, and tried to change the subject. But you were relentless.”
She wrote of an event at Walk’s apartment where he “cornered me and pushed me into your bedroom and onto your bed. … You being drunk and me being 6 inches taller was my saving grace.” After a year, she says she reported the behavior to Walk’s then-“counterpart,” who wasn’t surprised, she notes, but offered her a graceful exit. Coopersmith says she took the “dirty money” and moved to Los Angeles.
Variety obtained an internal memo sent to Republic’s staff in the wake of Coopersmith’s post.
“Dear Republic Colleagues,” it reads. “You may be aware of yesterday’s media reports concerning allegations of conduct by Charlie Walk while he was an executive at Sony. We take allegations of this nature very seriously and want to ensure that Republic Records is a safe environment where employees are treated fairly and respectfully. To that end, we have engaged an independent law firm, Collazo Florentino & Keli LLP, to speak with any current or former Republic employees who have information of this nature they want to share about their Republic work experience. … You can also speak with … Human Resources to discuss any concerns relating to your experiences as a Republic employee.
“To be clear, UMG does not tolerate any type of retaliation against any employees for raising issues of concert. If you have something to say, we want to hear it.”