Amazon suspends top studio executive after harassment claim

by BLOOMBERG Inc. put Roy Price (picture), the head of its film and TV unit, on a leave of absence after a producer told the Hollywood Reporter he sexually harassed her, days after a series of similar accusations led to the ouster of Harvey Weinstein as head of the production company he co-founded.

Isa Hackett, who worked on the Amazon Prime Video show “The Man in the High Castle,” told the publication that Price made inappropriate advances to her at an event two years ago. Price couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Roy Price is on leave of absence effective immediately,” Amazon said in a statement. Albert Cheng, chief operating officer of Amazon Studios, has been named interim head of the division, the company said in a separate email.

The allegation against Price engulfed Amazon in the uproar over mistreatment of women in Hollywood, though only the details of Hackett’s claim were new. The Information had reported in August that Price had been investigated over a claim of unwanted sexual remarks to Hackett. The company had said earlier that it looked into the matter and addressed it.

The damage to Amazon will depend largely on whether more accusations surface against Price and how Amazon handled them, said Glenn Selig, a crisis management strategist at the Publicity Agency based in Tampa, Florida. “It’s a lot more difficult for the brand to deal with, given the broader narrative around the Harvey Weinstein scandal.”

The Seattle-based e-commerce company has two TV projects in development with Weinstein Co. and said this week it’s reviewing them.

Read more: Can Weinstein’s low-profile brother Bob save the family film business?

Actress Rose McGowan said on Twitter Thursday that she had warned Amazon not to do business with Harvey Weinstein, the now-disgraced producer, and was ignored.

Weinstein, whom McGowan and other women have accused of harassment and, in some cases, rape, has denied sexually assaulting anyone. He was fired from Weinstein Co. last weekend.

Police in London and New York were looking into complaints involving the disgraced film producer, they said Thursday, the New York Times reported.

Coming Forward

The allegations associated with Amazon show how the Weinstein scandal, which erupted last week in a New York Times story, is reverberating in Hollywood and encouraging more women to speak out about their experiences. Hackett told the Hollywood Reporter she was emboldened to come forward after seeing so many women publicly accuse Weinstein.

The claims compound the problems for Amazon Studios, which has won critical acclaim for some productions, while struggling to make TV shows that capture the popular imagination like Netflix Inc.’s “House of Cards” and “Stranger Things.”

Amazon will spend about $4 billion this year on video programming, including its own TV shows and movies, according to estimates by Wedbush Securities Inc. Video streaming is part of its $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscription, also known for free two-day deliveries. Amazon tells investors the big investment in video pays off by enticing more people to join Prime, making them more loyal shoppers. Amazon last year also launched a stand-alone video streaming service.

Amazon’s comedy series “Transparent” won a Golden Globe award for best comedy or musical and a best actor Emmy for Jeffrey Tambor. Casey Affleck — who has also been dogged by allegations of sexual harassment that he has denied — won a best actor Oscar this year for his role in the Amazon original movie “Manchester by the Sea.”

But other ambitious projects have fizzled, with “Z: The Beginning of Everything” and “The Last Tycoon” each canceled after a single season. Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos wants his studio division to deliver more big hits like HBO’s popular series “Game of Thrones” that get people talking and set social media abuzz, prompting changes in the studio unit, Variety reported in September.