Sony Music Australia: more executives on leave as investigation into workplace culture continues

·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Two Sony Music Australia executives, Pat Handlin and Mark Stebnicki, are on indefinite leave from the company, according to reports – a day after Pat’s father, CEO Denis Handlin, was removed as head of the label.

The move comes at the same time as an investigation by Sony Music Entertainment’s head office in New York, which is looking into the record label’s Sydney-based branch following multiple complaints about workplace culture.

Sony Music refused to comment on reports that Pat Handlin and Stebnicki were on indefinite leave. Guardian Australia has not been able to reach either of the men for comment.

Related: Revealed: multiple allegations of toxic culture at Sony Music Australia as CEO Denis Handlin leaves

Handlin junior is the vice president of A&R (artists and repertoire) across Australia and New Zealand, and was widely tipped to be his 70-year-old father’s successor at the record label. He is engaged to pop singer Samantha Jade, who has released four albums under the Sony label since winning The X Factor Australia in 2012.

Stebnicki is the Australiasian senior vice president in charge of strategy, corporate affairs and human resources. A longstanding friend of the Handlin family, he has worked in various capacities in the human resources area of the Sydney Sony office since 2007.

Guardian Australia is not suggesting there are any specific allegations against Denis Handlin, Pat Handlin or Stebnicki.

Sony’s Sydney headquarters has been plunged into a human resources nightmare over the past week, with a number of stories breaking in the media, including a three-month investigation by Guardian Australia.

In April, one of Sony Music Australia’s most senior executives, the vice president of commercial music Tony Glover, was sacked after an internal company investigation found he had bullied and harassed multiple staff members. Glover has denied any wrongdoing.

The New York office subsequently invited employees and former employees to come forward confidentially if they wished to report alleged incidents of bullying or harassment.

On 14 June, the Guardian sent a list of detailed questions to the global company’s head office in New York, including multiple complaints about the workplace culture from former employees across two decades, including allegations of bullying, harassment and unfair treatment in the workplace.

Former employees also complained about a heavy drinking culture at Sony Australia, allegedly encouraged by senior management, which they believe placed employees at physical and psychological risk.

On 16 June, Sony Music Entertainment in New York provided the following statement to Guardian Australia: “We take all allegations from our employees very seriously and investigate them vigorously. These claims only recently came to light and we are examining them expeditiously. Harassment, bullying and other inappropriate behavior is not tolerated by Sony Music at any of our companies and we are committed to ensuring a safe and respectful workplace for our employees. Given our ongoing inquiries, we cannot comment further.”

On 21 June, the chairman of Sony Music Group and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment in New York, Rob Stringer, announced to all staff in Australia and New Zealand that Denis Handlin was leaving the company, effective immediately, and thanking Handlin for “his extraordinary contribution to the Company and its artists over his long career in the Australian and New Zealand music industry”.

Handlin is also expected to resign as chair of the Aria board. An Aria spokesman told the Guardian: “Denis Handlin is on the Aria board as a representative of Sony Music. As he no longer works at Sony Music, he can no longer be on the Aria board.”

Up until Monday, Denis Handlin was the global record company’s longest-serving employee.


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