Former Sony Music Australia boss Denis Handlin – once considered the most powerful man in Australian music – has lost his ARIA lifetime achievement award after a bombshell TV broadcast.
In a one-line statement released late Friday, the Australian Record Industry Association said: “The ARIA Board has decided today to withdraw the ARIA Prize awarded to Denis Handlin in 2014.”
ABC’s Four Corners program aired on Monday allegations from former and current employers alleging that Handlin had fostered a culture of “harassment and abuse” as chairman of Sony for 37 years.
In that role, Mr Handlin helped advance the careers of some of Australia’s biggest stars, including Delta Goodrem and Jessica Mauboy, until he suddenly left the company in June.
There is no suggestion that his departure was related to the charges against Handlin.
The most powerful man in Australian music, former Sony boss Denis Handlin (pictured), has been stripped of a lifetime achievement award by the Australian Record Industry Association
A number of former employees lined up to air allegations against Mr Handlin, including ex-Sony employee Eleanor Mackay and his former driver.
“He was just as mean to men as he was to women,” Ms. McKay, who joined the company in 1986, told ABC.
But on Tuesday morning Kyle and Jackie O, Sandilands twisted the seriousness of the claims.
‘What a waste of life to see that. So the guy was a bit of a toddy monster and screamed in the ’80s,” Sandilands said of the allegations.
‘There was a driver from the late ’80s – ‘oh, he once threw a phone at me and said the F-word when I couldn’t afford a Harry’s pie!’
“Well, who cares.”
Sandilands said he kept waiting to find out what Mr Handlin might have done.
‘There was a secretary from the ’80s [saying] “he was the most repulsive man.”
‘Oh yeah, no arguing there, but what was he doing? “He would belittle people.”
‘Well, big problem. The angry boss who yelled and belittled people. Get over it.’
“What a waste of life to see that,” Kyle Sandilands told listeners on the Kyle and Jackie O show about the Four Corners program on Denis Handlin
On one occasion, Mr. Handlin dressed up as Adolf Hitler (above) in an eight-minute skit for workers, a video obtained by Four Corners showed
Once, Mr. Handlin dressed up as Adolf Hitler in an eight-minute employee skit, a video obtained by ABC, in a parody of Mel Brooks’ 1983 hit The Hitler Rap.
In a statement to the ABC, Mr Handlin said he would “never tolerate sexism or abuse in the workplace.”
“I have always supported and encouraged women in the industry and personally advocated for diversity.
“I would never tolerate women being treated in an inappropriate or discriminatory way.
“Every time I was pointed to this kind of behavior, I took action to make sure it was stopped and didn’t happen again.”
Mr Handlin, 70, was one of the most influential figures in the industry, drawing bands and stars including Delta Goodrem, Jessica Mauboy and Gang of Youths.
ABC’s Four Corners blew the lid on alleged culture during Denis Handlin’s 37-year reign as chairman of Sony Music
Born in Brisbane, Mr Handlin worked with the company in 1970 in the mailroom of the Australian Record Company before rebranding as Sony Music.
He quickly rose through the ranks to become national promotion manager, director of marketing and then general manager of marketing and sales.
In 1984 he impressed world leaders enough to be made Australian general manager and general manager before taking on the role of chairman in 1996.
But former staff told Four Corners reporter Grace Tobin that his success came at their expense.
“I don’t think you would have a CEO of a music company with that much power anywhere else in the world,” a former Sony employee from the 2000s told the show.
Singer Amy Shark (pictured) repeatedly praised her record company boss upon receiving awards such as her multiple Aria gongs in 2018
“It’s always been a huge story waiting to come out, and could never come out while Denis was still at the helm because people were so scared.
“There was a sense that he was untouchable.”
Another Sony executive from the 1990s said the staff worked in fear at the Sydney headquarters.
“I felt targeted, I felt manipulated, and I definitely felt abused. There’s only so much you can bear,” said one.
“I think a lot of people feel fear when they hear that name,” another former employee who worked at Sony for the past ten years told Four Corners.
Amy Shark (pictured) missed thanking him in one of her three Aria speeches that night, reportedly causing him to leave the ceremony
Handlin’s former right-hand man, Alan Terrey, said he refused to “go to my grave without telling my story,” recalling a time the former CEO allegedly fired a 10-year-old receptionist in hopes of a younger woman. to assume.
“Now I want you to fire her,” Mr. Terrey said, Mr. Handlin told him.
He then goes on to claim that Mr Handlin said he wanted a younger woman at the front desk.
But stars were quick to sing his praises whenever they were in the spotlight.
Singer Amy Shark has repeatedly praised her record company executive for receiving awards such as her multiple Aria gongs in 2018.
“Denis Handlin and my incredible team at Sony – I wouldn’t have a career without you,” Ms Shark said at the time.
But she missed to thank him in one of her three speeches that night, which reportedly caused him to leave the ceremony.
Shark would apologize personally and publicly on Twitter the next day.
Other company employees claimed that a toxic culture was “the norm.”
But many were shocked when Mr Handlin left the company in June.
“Actually, I was stunned,” an experienced Sony executive told the show.
Former employees have come forward to speak about the culture at Sony Music while Denis Handlin was in charge (pictured, Sony Music’s Sydney HQ)