There’s more to Davidar’s departure than previously reported

June 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Earlier this week, the surprise departure of David Davidar as CEO of Penguin Canada threw the publishing world into a tizzy. In a Globe and Mail article published this past Wednesday, books columnist John Barber wrote that the “tight-knit Canadian publishing industry roiled with speculation and dismay” at the news. Davidar, who was in the CEO’s chair when the company published its first Scotiabank Giller Prize–winner, Joseph Boyden’s novel Through Black Spruce, and when it debuted its prestige fiction line, Hamish Hamilton Canada, told the Globe that his departure had been “under discussion for months.” When asked by Quill & Quire why he was leaving now, Daivdar responded, “Principally, I wanted to [return to] my writing. I’ve got about six chapters of a new novel done. I wrote my previous two novels while I was working, and I wanted to see if I could give this one [a better] shot if I didn’t have a day job to go to. So my plan is to take at least a year to see if I can finish the novel.”

Well, it turns out that the situation might not be so cut and dried. According to an article published today on Publishers Weekly‘s website, Davidar faces sexual harassment charges filed by ex-colleague Lisa Rundle:

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. The statement added that Davidar was asked to leave the company last month, and while it had been unclear just when Davidar’s resignation, announced Tuesday, would become effective, Penguin said he will have no further involvement with the company.

The PW article also indicates that Rundle has filed a wrongful termination claim against Penguin.

Needless to say, this news is bound to send shockwaves through the Canadian publishing industry, and will only exacerbate the pain that Penguin was feeling this week as a result of its corporate announcement that Penguin Canada staff would henceforth report to David Shanks, head of Penguin USA in New York (something that Jackie Kaiser, a former Penguin staffer and current literary agent with the Westwood Agency told the Globe “does not reflect well on Penguin”). Whether Rundle’s complaint has merit, or is merely the product of a disgruntled ex-employee, has yet to be seen, and it should be noted that both PW and the Globe indicate that the suit was filed only on Thursday. However, Penguin’s decision to release this information on a Friday afternoon in June, when most of the publishing and media industries have summer hours, is disingenuous at best. It seems like a poor attempt to bury an unpleasant story – an attempt that has already proven futile.

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