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Grammys Settle With Ousted C.E.O.

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The Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammy Awards, has reached a confidential settlement with Deborah Dugan, its ousted chief executive, just weeks before arbitration hearings over her dismissal were set to begin.

In a joint statement issued late Thursday, the two sides said: “The Recording Academy and Deborah Dugan have agreed to resolve their differences and to keep the terms of their agreement private.”

By settling, the Recording Academy avoids what could have been a rare glimpse at its opaque internal politics. The arbitration was set to begin on July 12 in Los Angeles, and despite earlier promises to make the hearings open to the public, the academy had in recent weeks been pushing to keep the proceedings secret.

The settlement closes a contentious period in Grammys history. Ms. Dugan, a former media executive who had led Red, the nonprofit co-founded by Bono of U2, was brought in to the academy in 2019 as a change agent. The academy had for years faced complaints about its voting process and its poor record of recognizing women and people of color in many of the top awards, and in 2018, Neil Portnow, Ms. Dugan’s predecessor, was criticized for suggesting that women should “step up” to be recognized at the Grammys.

But Ms. Dugan spent only five months at the helm. In January 2020, just 10 days before the ceremony that year, Ms. Dugan was placed on administrative leave — and later fired — over what the academy said were “concerns raised to the Recording Academy board of trustees, including a formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member of the Recording Academy team.”

In a discrimination complaint lodged with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Ms. Dugan said her dismissal was an act of retaliation after she challenged the “boys’ club” that she said dominated the academy. It also came a few weeks after she wrote a detailed letter to the academy’s human resources department alleging voting irregularities, financial mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

Perhaps most shocking to music insiders, Ms. Dugan also accused a prominent outside lawyer for the academy of making unwanted sexual advances toward her shortly after she got the job. (That lawyer, Joel Katz, disputed Ms. Dugan’s account.)

The academy denied her allegations and portrayed her as a disruptive force at the organization, which sees itself as a home for the entire music community.

“What we expected was change without chaos,” Christine Albert, the academy’s board emeritus at the time, said in an interview with The New York Times after Ms. Dugan was dismissed but before she filed her discrimination complaint.

Lawyers for Ms. Dugan declined to comment further about the settlement. Representatives of the Recording Academy did not respond early Friday to requests for comment.


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