Former Grammys boss accused of raping woman in hotel room

Neil Portnow, the former president and CEO of the Recording Academy – the organisation that produces the Grammy Awards – has been accused of rape in a lawsuit.

A complaint filed with the New York State Supreme Court alleges Mr Portnow raped a woman in 2018 in a New York City hotel room after he and the plaintiff met for a work-related matter.

The woman alleged she became “disoriented and incapacitated” after drinking a glass of wine that Mr Portnow had given her before he sexually assaulted her, according to the complaint.

She said she first met Mr Portnow at a Recording Academy event in January 2018 in New York. She said the pair then met again in June of the same year when Mr Portnow invited her to his hotel room, the lawsuit alleges, where he gave her Grammy memorabilia and offered her a glass of wine.

She claimed Mr Portnow did not drink the wine, but when she did, she “began to feel woozy,” and told Mr Portnow she wanted to go home. However, she alleged Mr Portnow told her no taxis were available.

The complaint alleges she later passed out and awoke several times throughout the night while Mr Portnow was sexually assaulting her.

The complaint also states the woman has since suffered “severe emotional, physical and psychological distress, including shame, guilt, economic loss of earning capacity, and emotional loss.”

The plaintiff is not named in the complaint, but it describes her as an instrumentalist from outside the United States who once performed at Carnegie Hall. She was 37 at the time of the alleged assault.

She is suing Mr Portnow for alleged sexual battery and gender motivated violence, and has also filed a lawsuit against the Recording Academy for negligence.

Mr Portnow, who stepped down as the CEO in 2019, has denied the allegations. In a statement given to The Independent, his spokesperson called the allegations “completely false” and “undoubtedly motivated by Mr. Portnow’s refusal to comply with the Plaintiff’s outrageous demands for money and assistance in obtaining a residence visa for her.”

The woman said in the lawsuit that she had reached out to the Academy in late 2018 about Portnow.

A representative for the Recording Academy denied the claims in the lawsuit, telling CNN: “We continue to believe the claims to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend the Academy in this lawsuit.”

The allegations against Mr Portnow first surfaced in 2020 when his successor, Deborah Dugan, was ousted after just eight months on the job and filed a legal claim against the Recording Academy, where she alleged the board was aware of the allegations.

At the time, Mr Portnow called the allegations “ludicrous, and untrue.”

In 2018, Mr Portnow received public backlash and calls for resignation after stating female artists need to “step up” during an interview with Variety in which he was asked about the lack of female representation at that year’s Grammy Awards ceremony.

He said “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, producers, and want to be part of the industry on the executive level” need “to step up because I think they would be welcome. I don’t have personal experience of those kinds of brick walls that you face but I think it’s upon us — us as an industry — to make the welcome mat very obvious…”

At the time, he insisted his comment was “taken out of context.”