Penguin and Davidar settle out of court: UPDATED

July 6, 2010 by · 8 Comments 

According to an article in today’s Globe and Mail, the sexual harassment suit that cost ex-Penguin Canada head David Davidar his job last month has been settled out of court:

“We can now advise that all allegations have been addressed and all matters resolved to the satisfaction of all parties,” Peter Downard, lawyer to former Penguin executive David Davidar, wrote in an e-mail. “None of the parties will be commenting further to the media.”

Penguin spokesman Yvonne Hunter confirmed the news. “Everything has been settled,” she said, adding that the company expects to follow the news by announcing the name of Penguin Canada’s new president Wednesday morning.

The undisclosed settlement puts an end to the legal side of this unfortunate incident. However, the voices that have been raised as a result of this whole affair should not be forgotten or ignored, and if there is an institutional culture that condones the behaviour alleged to have transpired at Penguin, it should be addressed now, before the entire industry is forced to undergo a repeat of this sad chapter in its history.

UPDATE, July 7, 2010: A press release from Penguin Group (Canada) today announced that Mike Bryan, the CEO of Penguin India since 2007, has been appointed president of Penguin Canada:

Mike Bryan is one of the most senior and experienced members of Penguin’s international team, having served as International Sales and Marketing Director for Penguin for both the U.K. and U.S. and, most recently, as President of Penguin India.  Mike was fundamental to the development of Penguin’s international operations, setting up companies in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.  He also started Penguin Singapore and Malaysia.  He will transfer to Toronto and will take up responsibility in August, reporting to David Shanks.

In case Canadian authors, agents, and industry watchers are disappointed that the new president does not hail from this country, the release goes on to state that “Penguin Canada expects to appoint a Canadian with senior experience in the media and publishing industries to the position of Chairman of a newly formed Penguin Canada Board, which will have responsibility for the company’s overall strategy.”

More significantly, as Claire Cameron points out in the comments section of this post, Lisa Rundle, the ex-Penguin staffer whose sexual harassment suit precipitated David Davidar’s ouster, has been restored to her old position as rights and contracts director.

As for Bryan, he is largely an unknown quantity here in Canada. Live Mint (a website run by The Wall Street Journal) published a profile of Bryan back in 2008. The article offers some background for people in this country who are unfamiliar with Bryan’s history.

He holds a degree in business studies from Liverpool John Moores University, and worked as a bookseller before joining Penguin in 1980. One of Bryan’s stated goals at Penguin India was to find a domestic writer capable of achieving the international stature and sales of a Tom Clancy or a Dan Brown. Of the latter writer, Live Mint quotes Bryan as saying, “How can you look down on Dan Brown when he has sold so many books?”

Bryan’s taste in wine is perhaps slightly more refined: he professes an affinity for Sula Sauvignon Blanc and Brunello di Montalcino from Tuscany.

According to Live Mint, Bryan was not much of a reader as a boy:

“I didn’t read very much till I was 16,” he says. “And then I started going out with a girl who read a lot. She had this wall of orange. I suddenly realized that girls found boys who read very attractive.” It turned out to be a lasting affair – not with the book lover he was dating, but with books. And, also, it appears, with a certain book publisher. The wall in his old flame’s room was orange because it was lined with Penguin paperbacks with their distinctive orange spines.

Some years passed, and books also brought Bryan and his wife, Heather Adams, together. He was working as a manager in a bookstore in the north of England and she was the “Saturday girl” there – which means, he explains, that she came to work only on Saturdays.

That “thumping” sound you hear is yr. humble correspondent banging his head repeatedly against his desk.


8 Responses to “Penguin and Davidar settle out of court: UPDATED”
  1. LH says:

    Thanks for this post, Steven, and the last one as well.

    I posted a response over on my blog, after, as you know, agonizing a little about replying publicly. Far too often I reply about a/ criticism and b/ sexism and one risks being labeled neatly and put on an out of the way shelf for easy ignoring when one has to point out the obvious again and again, so thanks for doing it here.

    Is there a connection between the sexist dynamic displayed in this Penguin debacle, and on the blogs you linked to (thank you) recounting tales of the publishing industry, and the lack of women’s voices in a critical capacity in this country? I wager so. As I posted yesterday, I am no longer inclined to take any publisher, or journal, or newspaper, or blog, or discussion of literature that doesn’t display a modicum of open mindedness about gender dynamics seriously…

    Perhaps it’s time for a simple formula such as “The Bechdel test” from Alison Bechdel. She requires a movie to pass three questions:

    1) Does it have two or more women in it (who have names)?

    2) Do they talk to one another?

    3) Do they talk to one another about something other than a man?

    What would happen if we simply asserted such an expectation from Cultural dialogs? I wager in a few years we would have forgotten the tactic and like many of my young students, simply shake our heads that there was ever a need for such a thing.

    Again, thanks for the posts.

  2. Lisa Rundle got her job back.

  3. LH says:

    Thanks for the update.

    Clearly the future of publishing is in very good hands.

    We can rest easy this summer.

  4. Panic says:

    Wait. WAIT. The guy that replaces the guy that was fired over “allegations” of misconduct with an employee met his wife WHEN SHE WAS HIS EMPLOYEE? Am I reading that right?

  5. LH says:

    Yes, but clearly he is a man with a vision, imagination, insight, sensitivity and a plan…and Penguin, well, strategic.

  6. Susan Olding says:

    It strains credulity. Or maybe this is Penguin’s way of evening the score. Lisa Rundle gets her job back, but the one who replaces Davidar is (apparently) in the relevant respect a clone.

  7. storeboughthair says:

    March of the clones, indeed. Considering that the vast majority of publishing employees are women, how perplexing that no female candidate for the position could be found in the great big whole wide world. (Gals do too much reading, not enough pen-collecting, perhaps?) From a purely cynical viewpoint it would have been a public-relations coup to appoint someone without a pen.

  8. This is the one spot of humour in the whole debacle:

    Read the article first and save the comment for last.