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Live Nation has parted ways with film and TV executive Heather Parry, head of Live Nation Productions, following an investigation into allegations of workplace bullying, which included claims from an anonymous letter that Parry had used racist and homophobic language.
“Heather Parry will be leaving Live Nation, effective immediately,” Live Nation officials said Thursday in a statement sent to Billboard. “Live Nation is committed to the Live Nation Productions division and to our pipeline of artist-driven projects which will be led moving forward by current executives Ryan Kroft, Matt Stein and Chad Wasser.” Wasser is the acting general manager at Live Nation Productions, while Stein oversees the department’s scripted projects and Kroft runs unscripted.
A source at Live Nation confirmed that the two-month inquiry “did not validate claims” from a former employee that Parry “was racist or homophobic,” but did find that the work environment Parry created did not meet the “expectation of leadership” at the $10 billion live-music company.
“I’m grateful that the company’s independent inquiry showed that I am not racist or homophobic,” Parry said in a statement to Billboard. “Being accused in the media of something I’m not has been incredibly painful.”
Parry’s departure comes after two day of meetings and input from Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino, president Joe Berchtold and CFO Kathy Willard. In her statement, Parry thanked Rapino for giving her “an incredible opportunity to build a film and TV division from the ground up,” saying the role was the “most gratifying thing I have ever done.”
Added Parry: “This wasn’t just a job to me. It is what I love. Music, TV and film are my passions, and at times I have had to be relentless, because nothing of great value ever comes easy. As a boss, I’m tough and brutally honest, and through this process I have learned how I can go about being not only a more effective leader but a better person.”
Live Nation hired Los Angeles-based attorney Paul Hasting to look into the claims against Parry, who deployed lead investigator Elena Baca to interview employees and look into rumors of abuse at the production division, where 33 employees have either quit, been fired or pushed out in the last three years.
Parry would allegedly yell and personally insult her staff for minor mistakes, according to several former employees who spoke to Billboard on the condition of anonymity. Employees often said they would report Parry’s behavior to the human resources department, but that the complaints never led to action. After multiple interventions with several HR executives, Berchtold and Willard agreed to a 2018 meeting with department staffers who wanted Parry out of Live Nation. One employee taped the meeting and later leaked it to the press, disappointed that what they thought was a meeting to talk about next steps for terminating Parry was instead a meeting explaining that if Live Nation let go of Parry, they’d likely have to shut down the entire film and TV department, according to people familiar with the meeting.
Instead of being fired, Parry would instead participate in a counseling program and undergo ongoing monitoring to correct her management deficiencies. Long-term, the goal would be to pass off many of the management duties to Wasser while Parry focused on creative elements of the business.
Company officials say Parry was making progress, but an anonymous letter posted Dec. 19 on the division’s Twitter page cast Parry’s past behavior into the Hollywood spotlight. An unknown person claiming to be a current employee accessed the division’s Twitter account and, in an open letter to Rapino, accused Parry of being “an abusive monster” who threw things at employees, verbally attacked subordinates and created an environment where anxiety attacks, eating disorders and crying at one’s desk were the norm.
“Oh and don’t act like you don’t know about it,” the tweet read, saying that employee complaints to HR were regularly ignored. “If you still want to keep her around, be my guest. I am not afraid to release video and audio of her behavior.” The person signed off, “And believe me, it’s a lot UGLIER than this letter.”
Hours after the rogue tweet went out, Parry was placed on leave and Hasting was brought in to investigate the charges.
Live Nation officials say they were reluctant to let go of the Hollywood veteran, who facilitated a $10 million investment in A Star is Born, a profitable deal for Live Nation that gave the company proximity to the Oscar-nominated film. Parry had previously worked at Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company and MTV News. One company official told Billboard that Parry had a rare talent for bridging the divide between film and music, developing documentaries for Live Nation-aligned artists with films like Sean Combs’ Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop and Imagine Dragons’ Believer.
“It was not that she was so valuable but more that it was a small department she created, so we were willing to give her a second chance to grow,” one Live Nation executive says. “It’s what we do with most employees, including the more than 40 women at the company employed in leadership positions.”
Another senior executive told Billboard, “She’s really the whirling dervish for the department. She’s on the road, working on set with directors and buying the rights to content and negotiating deals with Netflix. She had a large network of creatives, producers and directors in Hollywood and knew how to make things happen.”
Live Nation officials also say Parry was showing signs of improvement and “was serious about change and digging in with the therapist on how and why to change.” Parry’s attorney, Marty Singer, told Billboard that in the six months since the meeting with Willard and Berchtold, Parry has stayed out of trouble.
“My client is not aware of any new charges or accusations having been made against her,” Singer tells Billboard. “Any accusation or repetition of the accusation that my client is racist or homophobic is false and defamatory.”
It’s unclear what Parry will do next; in her statement, she said she planned on “continuing my career as an independent producer,” and several sources said Parry will be making a few appearances at big Oscar events on Sunday to reconnect with friends in the film industry.
Parry’s statement to Billboard can be read in its entirety, below.
I’m grateful that the company’s independent inquiry showed that I am not racist or homophobic. Being accused in the media of something I’m not has been incredibly painful.
I pride myself on creating and supporting projects that make a positive impact. That’s at the core of what I have produced throughout my entire career. I have helped artists make films and TV that unite and empower.
Live Nation and Michael Rapino gave me an incredible opportunity to build a film and TV division from the ground up. I take great pride in what my colleagues at Live Nation and I have achieved. It is the most gratifying thing I have ever done.
This wasn’t just a job to me. It is what I love. Music, TV and film are my passions, and at times I have had to be relentless, because nothing of great value ever comes easy. As a boss, I’m tough and brutally honest, and through this process I have learned how I can go about being not only a more effective leader but a better person. I am humbled and will grow from this experience, and I look forward to continuing my career as an independent producer.
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