Music King Denis Handlin presided over a toxic work culture for almost four decades, despite multiple complaints and investigations.
The disturbing revelations about the former boss of Sony Music will air tonight on the ABC’s ‘4 Corners’ program.
The program spoke to more than 100 current and former Sony employees.
They claim the company’s New York head office was aware of Handlin’s conduct for years, but failed to act.
Music King’s toxic reign exposed
Denis Handlin started his career at Sony in the mail room and worked his way up to be the boss of the company’s Australian division.
He played a pivotal role in the success of artists such as Delta Goodrem, Men At Work, John Farnham and Midnight Oil.
But behind the scenes, staff say Handlin was a drunk, power-hungry monster, who presided over a toxic culture of intimidation, harassment, bullying and discrimination.
‘Consumed by power’
Sony Music Australia’s former finance director, Alan Terrey, spoke to ‘4 Corners’.
He worked with Handlin for 14 years.
“Denis got consumed by power. No question about it,” he told the ABC.
“It was his company. It was his train set. And anyone below him, including myself as 2IC, were basically puppets and he pulled all the strings and he demanded his actions to be followed.”
Terrey said Handlin regularly humiliated executives.
“His day-to-day dealings with people were pretty much at the executive level so they’re the people who really copped the abuse and the toxic behaviour,” he said.
“Occasionally, he would bring some lower minion into a board meeting and absolutely destroy them in front of his superior.
“But it was meted out to everybody, nobody escaped.”
Handlin’s behaviour was so offensive, annual turnover at Sony reached 50 percent.
Former Human Resources manager Greg Lockhart told the ABC it was his job to manage the damage caused by Handlin.
“There would be someone every day that I would have to put back together again from some drama that Denis had created the night before or the day before,” he told the ABC.
“Putting people back together again became a full-time job for me. These people were traumatised.”
Lockhart said Sony Music’s head office in New York ignored his repeated complaints about Handlin’s conduct.
Workers who fell pregnant at Sony soon found themselves made redundant.
‘4 Corners’ says the company made at least seven women redundant while on maternity leave over a six-year period.
Sony paid all of them cash settlements.
According to former staff, Sony’s head office suspended Handlin and commenced a major investigation into his conduct in 1998.
They even flew 10 Australian executives to New York for one-on-one interviews.
However, three months later, staff were shocked to hear Handlin would be returning to the office.
Devastated by the decision, Alan Terrey quit the company.
“No amount of money could have enticed me to go back,” he said.
“I was in charge of my life again.”
Sony head office finally sacked Handlin earlier this year after receiving media inquiries about his conduct.
The ‘4 Corners’ investigation airs tonight on the ABC at 8.30pm AEDT
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