Former CEO of Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun Accused of Sexual Assault

Atlantic Records is also being accused of allowing a company culture that did not crack down on harrassment

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Former CEO of Atlantic Records Ahmet Ertegun Accused of Sexual Assault

In a disturbing lawsuit that is currently pending filing, Atlantic Records Group and the estate of former CEO Ahmet Ertegun is being sued for allegedly doing nothing to prevent alleged instances of serious sexual assault perpetrated by Ertegun against Ms. Jan Roeg, a former talent manager who had worked with the company from the early 1980s into the 2000s. Ertegun was a co-founder of Atlantic Records, and passed away in December of 2006. Roeg blames a company culture of “boys will be boys”and serious oversight by Atlantic’s Board of Directors, as well as all other management and administration personnel, for allowing these instances of sexual assault to take place against Roeg and, she alleges, instances of inappropriate sexual conduct with other female employees.

Roeg had begun working together with the company in or around 1983, acting as a talent manager combining clients of hers (her roster included Lynyrd Skynyrd, Johnny Van Zant and Bad Company, among others) with the services of the Label, specifically signing Casper McCloud early on. By September, 1984, she had a contract with Atlantic in which she would serve as a talent finder, working on commission and royalty basis, putting her in a position to work closely with a range of employees at the company. She stopped working directly with Ertegun around 2003. Roeg reasserts multiple times in her 28-page claim that she took her connection and responsibility to her artists’ very seriously, in addition to her own career, which Ertegun had large control over. She alleges that, as time went on, Ertegun made clear to her that no label would consider hiring her, as his discussion of her to other labels had created an image of her that was loyal only to Atlantic Records; other labels also did not want to anger Ertegun.

Roeg alleges that the first time she met Ertegun, he sexually assaulted her, a pattern that continued. She claims he would go on to inappropriately touch her, violently assault her in an instance in which they were together in his apartment (after a dinner with many executives in the business, they were to continue on to a club, until Ertegun asked that they make a quick stop at his apartment), and tell her that “You have to get to know us,” in an instance where she walked in on him masturbating in his office at the time of a meeting scheduled between the two of them. After Atlantic signed Roeg’s artist Casper McCloud, Roeg maintains that Ertegun got more forceful in his treatment of her—that he would show up at her apartment at all hours, without any notice, leading to, in her opinion, the breakup of a nine-year relationship with the person with whom she was living. Due to her refusal of his regular advances, Ertegun would allegedly withhold payments, including royalties owed her by the company. The “disheveled state” of other women leaving his office led Roeg to believe that there was further inappropriate sexual conduct going on on company property, going further than her. She also alleged that the language he used towards her on some occasions was “filthy and hateful,” as well as making continued sexual overtures. Many further instances are described in her case that is seeking to be filed with the New York State Supreme Court.

Roeg maintains that the Label knew about this sort of conduct, including in the “Factual Allegations” of her case that “Atlantic was confronted during the same period of Ms. Roeg’s affiliation with the Label by numerous women accusing Mr. Ertegun of inappropriate sexual conduct who sought and obtained settlements and/or cash payments, and signed confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements.” She was also never paid certain money that she was owed by the company, due to Ertegun withholding it.

Roeg also writes that her mental state was severely affected by this, causing her to take antidepressants for the first time in her life. Ertegun’s state of obsession, she alleges, continued for years, although he was married, and she was in a committed relationship or married at nearly all times in this period. The file also states clearly that “at no time did Ms. Roeg engage in any consensual intimate or sexual activity with Mr. Ertegun,” despite his calling her his “girlfriend.”

According to Roeg, Atlantic Records also had full knowledge of Ertegun’s conduct, allowing, through a practice of doing nothing, for this to continue, furthering a culture at the company that allowed it. Employees were not given sufficient training on how to respond to or report such instances. Indeed, Ertegun allegedly would often discuss his sexual activities in work settings. Dorothy Carvello, an assistant of Ertegun’s and later an executive at the company, wrote a book, “Anything For A Hit,” about her experiences in this company culture, describing similar instances of physical and sexual assault.

Roeg is suing for assault/sexual assault, battery/sexual battery against the trustees of Ertegun’s estate, negligence against Atlantic Records, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress against all defendants. She requests the following, should the case get filed and the court rule in her favor: the defendants are clearly declared to be violating the relevant laws, an order be made preventing the defendants from engaging in such conduct again, an award of damages, prejudgement interest on the amounts due, and coverage of the costs incurred by Roeg in pursuing this lawsuit, among other requests.