Here’s Everything We Learned From The Explosive ‘Four Corners’ Story About Sony Music
More than 100 current and former members of the company contributed to the story about the label's workplace culture.
Last night, Four Corners aired an explosive report regarding the workplace culture at Sony Music Australia, and detailing the alleged behaviour of Denis Handlin, the company’s recently ousted CEO.
Central to the report is the claim that Handlin bullied and abused multiple members of his team, from his chauffeur to the artists on his roster. As reported by the ABC, Four Corners spoke with more than 100 current and former members of the company, many of whom spoke only under conditions of anonymity.
One of the key voices in the report is Alan Terrey, the one-time finance director of the company, who alleged that Handlin “got consumed by power”. “It was his company,” Terrey said. “It was his train set. And anyone below him, including myself as 2IC, were basically puppets and he pulled all the strings and he demanded his actions to be followed.”
Additionally, a former secretary at the company detailed an incident in which Handlin ritualistically humiliated her boss.
“There was one incident where he dropped all the papers from his briefcase and he made my boss get down and pick up all the papers,” she said in the report. “And it wasn’t just that they’d offered to do it, like he told them, ‘Pick that up!’
Central to the report is the testimony of Shane Earle, the former chauffeur of Handlin. Earle kept a diary of the alleged abuse and humiliation that he suffered at the hands of his boss, and in the Four Corners exposé, details a number of instances of it.
“There’s only so much you can put up with,” Earle said. “It might be just driving a car but you’re trying to keep someone who’s reasonably unhinged, keep them on track. Not easy…He had a little regular stop which was Harry’s Café de Wheels, a place where you buy a meat pie, down near the naval base, and a lot of people frequented, especially in the early hours of the morning.”
On one evening, Handlin asked Earle for the money to buy a meat pie. When Earle told him that he didn’t have any, Handlin reportedly began hurling expletives at the driver, eventually throwing a phone at his head.
“[He was] acting like, I don’t know,” Earle said. “A child. Because he didn’t get his meat pie.”
Watching tonight’s excellent #4Corners I was really struck by how vividly former employees like Shane recalled their experiences after so long. Decades on and the pain from what they went through still felt fresh. Awful to think how many others have similar scars pic.twitter.com/67RojqOTB6
— Ange McCormack (@_angemccormack) October 11, 2021
In other footage, included in the report, Handlin dressed as Adolf Hitler for a performance of a song by comedian Mel Brooks. As noted on Twitter by Four Corners’ Sally Neighbour, no Sony Music Australia artists would talk to the program about Handlin’s behaviour.
Four Corners contacted many Sony artists. None of them would talk on the record about the decades long scandal within Sony Music. #4Corners
— Sally Neighbour (@neighbour_s) October 11, 2021
Earlier this year, Handlin was stood down “effective immediately”. Shortly afterwards, Handlin’s son Pat — another important figure at the company — was placed on indefinite leave.
Handlin’s removal occurred shortly before an explosive report from The Guardian was published, which alleged that the company was run as a “boy’s club”. Music Junkee does not suggest any serious allegations have been specifically made towards the individuals.
“I have always provided support and encouragement to women in the industry and personally championed diversity,” said Handlin in a statement to the ABC. “I would never tolerate treating women in an inappropriate or discriminatory manner. At any time I was made aware of this sort of behaviour I took action to ensure that it was stopped and didn’t occur again.”
Photo Credit: Don Arnold/WireImage.