Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Sex, Lies ... And Publishing

Today's post has everything: sex, lies, and office politics ... all wrapped up inside a literary gift box.

The story starts with a publishing super-star. David Davidar is a fifty-ish man who was born in southwest India. He began his career as a journalist and then studied publishing at Harvard. In 1985, he helped establish the Penguin division in India.

In addition to editing a number of well-known Indian authors over the next two decades, Davidar himself wrote two novels, the first of which was published in 2002. The House of Blue Mangoes was a New York Times (NYT) Notable Book. Here's the NYT blurb:
THE HOUSE OF BLUE MANGOES By David Davidar. (HarperCollins, $26.95.) A polished first novel by the C.E.O. of Penguin India, the book tracks three generations of the Dorais, a Christian family from the south of India, across the first half of the 20th century, ending just before independence.
The year after his book was published, Davidar transferred to Canada where he was first president of Penguin Canada and later, in October, 2009, was named CEO of Penguin International, a division which included Penguin Canada, Penguin India, Penguin Arabia and Penguin South Africa.

On the afternoon of June 8, Quill & Quire (Q&Q) reported here:
Penguin Canada president David Davidar – who took over the firm in fall 2003 and has been widely credited with returning it to good health – will soon be leaving the company and returning to India, his homeland ... Davidar will not be continuing on with Penguin India, either. He is leaving the company altogether to pursue his writing career and other projects.
Three days later, on June 11, Publishers Weekly reported here:
With questions swirling in Canada about the surprise resignation of Penguin Canada president David Davidar, the company issued a statement Friday afternoon announcing that Penguin’s former rights and contracts director Lisa Rundle charged Davidar with sexual harassment in an action yesterday.
Rundle not only sued Davidar. She also sued Penguin, claiming she had been wrongfully terminated by the corporation. Penguin denied this charge, saying Rundle chose to leave her position "to pursue career opportunities within the organization."

The following day,Q&Q, which has been all over this story, printed both a statement from Davidar and some background on Lisa Rundle here. Davidar was quoted as saying:
I had a friendship with my colleague which lasted for three years. I am utterly shocked by the allegations. I am dismayed that Penguin Canada chose to respond to them by directing me to leave Penguin. I intend to defend the allegations vigorously in the courts, and I am certain that the truth will prevail.
Q&Q offered this insight into Rundle:
On Oct. 31, 2005, Rundle announced that she was leaving [Penguin] for a position as rights and contracts coordinator at Random House of Canada. Almost immediately after that announcement, however, Rundle’s superior at Penguin, contracts manager Catherine MacGregor, left the company for a position with HarperCollins Canada. Consequently, Rundle changed her mind about leaving Penguin and stayed on to fill MacGregor’s role ... when Davidar became CEO of Penguin International ... Rundle was promoted yet again, this time to director of rights and digital management. It is not clear when Rundle took leave of the company.
Canada's The Globe & Mail reported the following on June 12 here:
A former employee of Penguin Canada has launched a $523,000 lawsuit alleging that company CEO David Davidar sexually harassed her repeatedly over the past three years, culminating in outright assault at the Frankfurt Book Fair last fall, and that she was fired after complaining to superiors about Davidar’s “twisted treatment” of her.
Rundle sued Penguin for $423,000 and Davidar personally for another $100,000 in a suit filed in Ontario on June 9. She included quotations from emails in which she claimed Davidar said he “could do very little except think of [her]" and "that she should not be 'stubborn' or 'fight' him."

On June 14, Q&Q raised the stakes again here, saying:
[Penguin's] human resources department was aware of prior sexual harassment by Davidar of at least one other employee, former executive assistant Samantha Francis. (Francis, who still works in the industry, gave Q&Q permission to run her name in this article.)

According to the claim, in summer 2008 Francis filed a complaint against Davidar ... Rundle goes on to state that Davidar showed her a copy of Francis’s complaint and told her that Francis had since “come to her senses” and recanted. Shortly after this conversation, Francis was promoted to paperwork editor ... Approximately six to eight months following the promotion, Francis left the company.
On June 20, Davidar's attorney released a lengthy (three full pages) and creepily detailed statement, which The Times of India provided here. It said in part:
David Davidar had a consensual, flirtatious relationship [with Ms. Rundle] that grew out of a close friendship with a colleague. He deeply regrets the hurt this has caused his wife ... Samantha Francis was David Davidar's executive assistant in 2006 and 2007. Mr Davidar engaged in flirtatious banter with her for a short period of time. He did not engage in any conduct toward Ms. Francis that he knew or should have known was unwelcome.
Yesterday Canadian Business Online reported here:
... a lawyer for former Penguin Canada president David Davidar, says in an email that "all allegations have been addressed and all matters resolved to the satisfaction of all parties."

He says none of the parties will be commenting further to the media ...

Penguin Canada spokeswoman Yvonne Hunter confirmed in an email that a settlement has been reached.
Q&Q had this to say here:
Penguin Canada will announce a new company president on Wednesday after reaching an out-of-court settlement in a sexual harassment lawsuit involving it and former president David Davidar. The announcement will end weeks of speculation about who will replace Davidar at the helm of the troubled firm and turn the page on a regrettable chapter in the company’s history.
The National Post of Canada reported here:
In subsequent interviews, [Davidar] announced that he and [his wife] Rachna, who managed the McNally Robinson bookstore in Don Mills until its closure in December, would be returning to India in the near future.
The person in this mess who has my most heartfelt sympathy is Mrs. Davidar.

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