Nov 9, 2023 2 min read

Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow accused of sexual assault

Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow has been sued by an unnamed woman who says that he drugged and sexually assaulted her in a New York hotel room in 2018

Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow accused of sexual assault

Former head of Grammy Awards organiser the Recording Academy, Neil Portnow, has been accused of sexual assault. The lawsuit filed by an unnamed musician says that he drugged and raped her in a hotel in 2018.

The lawsuit - which also names the Recording Academy as a defendant - alleges that the “internationally acclaimed musician, inventor, and former member of The Recording Academy” who is making the complaint first met Portnow at an event in New York in January 2018. Through further contact, she arranged to meet him in a hotel room in the same city six months later to interview him for a magazine she was running.

She says that she “began to feel woozy” after drinking a glass of wine Portnow offered her. When she attempted to leave, the lawsuit claims, he refused to let her. She then lost consciousness and occasionally awoke to find Portnow assaulting her.

The lawsuit alleges that the woman attempted to speak to Portnow a number of times in the days afterward “to understand and gain clarity as to what had occurred” but was ignored. She also contacted The Recording Academy in October 2018, but after an initial email response received no further contact from the organisation.

The following month, she received a letter from Portnow via his attorney - which is included in the lawsuit - saying that he was “deeply saddened by your communications which unfortunately now require me to have an attorney involved” and that “it is important that we hear each other with compassion and care”.

A police report was filed in December 2018, naming Portnow as the woman’s attacker. She is now is suing him for sexual battery and the Recording Academy for negligent hiring, supervision and retention. Both are also accused of perpetuating gender-motivated violence. The lawsuit demands a trial by jury.

Both Portnow and the Recording Academy deny the claims. In a statement to Billboard, Portnow’s attorney said: “The claims are the product of the plaintiff’s imagination and undoubtedly motivated by Mr Portnow’s refusal to comply with the plaintiff’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa for her”.

The Recording Academy stated: “We continue to believe the claims to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit”.

This is not the first time that these allegations have hit the headlines. After Portnow stepped down as CEO the Academy in 2019, he was briefly replaced by Deborah Dugan. However, she was quickly pushed out of the organisation, prompting a legal battle. She made various claims about her time there, which included implying that the reason for Portnow’s departure was an allegation of sexual assault that had been made against him.

In a response then, he confirmed that the allegation had been made, but said that he had been “completely exonerated” following an investigation and that the claims were “ludicrous and untrue”.

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