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Former Sony chief executive Denis Handlin has spoken for the first time since leaving the company, acknowledging that he had dealt with ‘issues of sexual misconduct’ across all levels of the business. By Ruby Jones and Osman Faruqi.

Exclusive: Denis Handlin acknowledges misconduct at Sony

Denis Handlin
Credit: Darren Leigh Roberts

The former chief executive and chair of Sony Music Australia, Denis Handlin, has issued his first public comments since exiting the company in June, confirming incidents of sexual misconduct occurred at the music label.

In a statement provided to Schwartz Media’s new investigative podcast series Everybody Knows, Handlin confirmed that the company had dealt with sexual misconduct in his time as chief executive. He said he had engaged lawyers and external advisers to conduct independent inquiries into the allegations and had also provided counselling to survivors.

“I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate or discriminatory manner,” he said.

“At any time I was made aware of this sort of behaviour, I took action to ensure that it was stopped and didn’t occur again.

“Over the years, this included seeing people at all levels and all seniority leave the company. With issues of sexual misconduct, I always took immediate action, in accordance with the law and best practice in the interests of those involved in such traumatic and disturbing events.”

He added: “It’s not appropriate for me to say anything further as most of these matters remain confidential to ensure the personal wellbeing of those involved.”

Handlin left Sony earlier this year after working at the company for more than 50 years, 37 of those as chief executive. His abrupt departure was announced via an email circulated by the company’s global boss, Rob Stringer.

“I am writing to let you know that Denis Handlin will be leaving Sony Music Entertainment after more than 50 years with the company, effective immediately,” Stringer’s email said.

“It is time for a change in leadership. And I will be making further announcements in terms of the new direction of our business in Australia and New Zealand in due course.”

Prior to Handlin’s departure, Sony’s global headquarters had launched an investigation into workplace misconduct at the Australian arm of the business, following a complaint from a local staff member.

Following Handlin’s departure a number of allegations were published by media outlets, describing a culture of sexism and bullying within Sony’s Australian arm.

No allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct were levelled at Handlin, nor is there any suggestion the investigation launched by the company was examining his behaviour.

In his statement, Handlin said he had “always provided support and encouragement to women in the industry and personally championed diversity”. He said he “promoted women as artists and employees” and stated that 11 of the 15 senior management positions at the company were held by women at the time he left.

Everybody Knows details a series of allegations of misconduct and bullying at Sony Music Australia. One former employee describes a culture entirely dominated by men.

“I have a memory of my first boardroom meeting with the creative team and with Denis [Handlin] and I walked in with another woman and went to sit at the board table and she grabbed my arm and said, ‘No, no, we sit back here on the couch,’ ” she said. “All of the men sat at the board table, and we just listened.”

She said she witnessed Handlin scream at people and tell them their careers were over. “It's quite, quite terrifying as a young girl in your 20s sitting there hearing the most powerful man in music say that.”

Ruby Jones is an investigative journalist and host of 7am


Osman Faruqi

is a journalist and the editor of 7am, Schwartz Media’s daily news podcast.