More details emerge about Davidar’s departure from Penguin

June 12, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

Details are starting to seep out about David Davidar’s abrupt departure from the CEO position at Penguin Canada earlier this week. Although neither Davidar nor Penguin Group chairman John Makinson admitted as much when the public announcement was made on June 8, it appears that Davidar was asked to leave the company a month ago and it was agreed at the time that both parties would publicly state that the departure was voluntary. As if that wasn’t sketchy enough, news broke yesterday that Penguin’s former rights and contracts manager, Lisa Rundle, has filed a sexual harassment claim against Davidar and a wrongful termination claim against Penguin.

The Globe and Mail has released details of Rundle’s claim, which asks for $523,000 in damages – $423,000 from Penguin for wrongful termination and $100,000 from Davidar personally. According to the Globe, Rundle alleges that Davidar’s harassment occurred over a period of three years, culminating in an all-out assault in Rundle’s hotel room during last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair:

The accusations are accompanied by quotations from several e-mail messages Mr. Davidar allegedly sent to Ms. Rundle during the period in question. Last year, he is said to have written that he “could do very little except think of [Ms. Rundle],” that she was “utterly gorgeous,” “a vision in pink sipping a champagne cocktail,” and that she should not be “stubborn” or “fight” him.

“Davidar over time became more and more intense with his persistent protestations of lust and desire for Lisa,” according to the claim, “and in return she became increasingly disturbed and afraid.”

The harassment allegedly culminated in an outright assault at the Frankfurt Book Fair last October when, according to the claim, Mr. Davidar appeared at Ms. Rundle’s hotel room door, “wearing excessive cologne, with buttons on his shirt undone down his waist.”

The statement of claim goes on to say that Davidar entered Rundle’s room against her wishes and forcibly kissed her.

In a statement released (somewhat stealthily) yesterday afternoon, Penguin Canada’s vice-president of marketing and publicity, Yvonne Hunter, denied Rundle’s assertion that she was terminated, saying that she left the company voluntarily:

Ms. Rundle was not terminated by Penguin Canada, but rather she advised the company of her decision to leave after having declined to pursue other career opportunities within the organization.

For his part, Davidar claims in a press release to be “disappointed” that Penguin issued a public statement about the pending litigation and denies the allegations contained in Rundle’s claim:

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.

Any way this story is parsed, it ends up reflecting badly on everyone involved. The fact that Penguin decided to attempt a cover-up about the real reasons for Davidar’s departure is sleazy in the extreme, and not terribly bright in any event (they must have known that the truth would come out the minute Rundle filed her claim, unless they thought they could somehow prevent her from doing so, which would be even worse). Rundle’s allegations have yet to be proven in court, and it seems odd that she would wait so long to file the claim, only doing so three days after Davidar’s public announcement of his departure. Her reasons for proceeding this way are her own, although it is not difficult to see how someone who experienced the kind of harassment and assault described in her affidavit could feel legitimately angry at the prospect of those events getting whitewashed in an attempt to save corporate face.

As for Davidar himself, this is one of the fastest and most dramatic tumbles from grace in recent memory. Only last year, he was tapped to head Penguin International, a new division that would oversee the company’s activities in South Africa, India, and the Middle East. Speculation ran rife at the time that Davidar was being groomed as Makinson’s successor. Now all of that is in tatters.

This entire story leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and it’s obviously too early to understand who’s at fault and who’s not. Hunter’s press release and Rundle’s affidavit are clearly contradictory: somebody is lying, and it will in all likelihood be a protracted and painful experience trying to figure out who that someone is. In the meantime, we can do little more that wait and watch this sad, sordid story unfold.


2 Responses to “More details emerge about Davidar’s departure from Penguin”
  1. Alex says:

    When are people going to learn that e-mails leave a paper trail?

  2. Nigel Beale says:

    And here I thought I had the market cornered on Penguin Porn (with this: )