Irving Azoff has responded to an open letter-slash-lawsuit by former MusiCares VP Dana Tomarken involving accusations, primarily about the Recording Academy, that tangentially veer into Azoff-related concerns.
Tomarken, who worked with the Recording Academy and its charity wing, MusiCares, for 25 years, is claiming wrongful termination after being fired April 16, and wrote a 4,500-word letter to the Recording Academy Board of Trustees, obtained by Variety, that reportedly claims Recording Academy chairman/president Neil Portnow steered money away from the charity to cover a deficit from this year’s Grammy telecast at Madison Square Garden and brokering a deal to have the MusiCares Person of the Year event, which piggybacks off of the Grammys, at Radio City Music Hall that led to less profit for the charity.
She claims in the letter that she was terminated “after a painful year of trying to protect MusiCares from being exploited, enduring ongoing instances of workplace abuse and harassment” from two male coworkers, named in the letter, according to Variety.
Tomarken had nothing further to add to Variety regarding the letter it obtained, saying “I sent the letter directly to the Trustees of the Academy’s Board of Directors and only them, so I have no further comment.” The Academy, on the other hand, provided the trade magazine with a lengthy statement that refuted Tomarken’s claims.
Azoff recently talked to HITS about Tomarken’s accusations. That’s because, if one reads down far enough into the Variety article, Tomarken says she got a call from him and Portnow to let her know that MusiCare’s Person of the Year event would be held at Radio City Music Hall, after she had been negotiating with Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Azoff is part of Azoff MSG Entertainment and a partner in Oak View Group, and Tomarken brought them into the story:
“Oak View had agreed to sell Grammy Week packages that included tickets to the telecast as well as Person of the Year, designed to raise $1.5 million for MusiCares,” she wrote. “However, just before the 2017 Christmas holiday, I discovered … that Neil had subsequently approved dropping MusiCares from the package revenue stream in favor of funding the telecast deficit.”
Barclays Center is run by AEG, a rival of OVG and MSG. Staples Center, which has hosted the Grammys in years’ past, is also run by AEG.
However, Azoff told HITS that it would be a stretch to claim the move implies anything involving a rivalry. In fact, there wasn’t a move because Barclays Center was never a real consideration in the first place but not because it is run by a competitor.
There was “no move from Barclays to Radio City,” Azoff said because, even if Barclays could host the event, it would be a non-starter. Barclays is in Brooklyn, far away from Madison Square Garden, and Radio City is walking distance.
“When the Academy booked MSG for the Grammys, OVG recommended Radio City for MusiCares,” Azoff said, adding that Portnow thought it an excellent idea. He said that at some point Tomarken told Portnow of a “silly offer” from Barclays but has no recollection that she said she preferred it. He added that they haven’t been privy to the financials claiming losses from the event.
He reiterated that Tomarken’s letter and legal matters are an internal concern for the Academy but was compelled to comment because MSG and OVG were dragged into the story, according to HITS, which focused mainly on reporting by the Amplify industry trade magazine rather than Variety or the letter itself.