Republic Records chief on leave over harassment allegations

(FILES) Republic Records President Charlie Walk, seen in this January 4, 2018 file image, is the latest powerful executive to face sexual harassment allegations (AFP Photo/Frederick M. Brown) (GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File)

New York (AFP) - The head of Republic Records, one of the biggest music labels whose acts include Ariana Grande, Lorde and The Weeknd, was placed on leave Wednesday after sexual harassment allegations.

Republic president Charlie Walk becomes one of the highest profile figures in pop music to be swept up in the rising #MeToo movement against workplace harassment, despite the industry's notoriously louche reputation.

Universal Music Group, the world's largest label conglomerate which includes New York-based Republic, said Walk had been put on leave as an outside law firm investigates the accusations against him.

"Republic Records is committed to a safe workplace environment where employees are treated fairly and respectfully," a company statement said.

The action comes two days after Tristan Coopersmith, founder of a California wellness studio for women called Life Lab, posted an open letter accusing Walk of harassment when she worked under him in the 2000s at Columbia Records, part of Sony Music.

She wrote that the married Walk made lewd comments about his sexual fantasies, grabbed her thigh under the table at business dinners and once pushed her onto his bed at an event at his home.

"To you, Charlie Walk, what you did was normal. It was a power you perceived to have earned, with a right to exercise it," she wrote.

"But to me it was insulting, confusing and objectifying. And it was a secret that I held for a very long time, my experiences only spilling out in flashbacks and nightmares," said Coopersmith, who said she was paid to stay quiet when she reported his behavior and left the company.

Bob Lefsetz, who writes an influential newsletter in the music industry, followed up with accounts by more people, both named and anonymous, who shared similar stories about Walk's character.

Walk in a statement published by entertainment industry site Deadline denied the allegations and said he had never received complaints about his behavior in his more than 25-year career.

"I have consistently been a supporter of the women's movement and this is the first time I have ever heard of this or any other allegation -- and it is false," he said.

Women have increasingly spoken up about abusive behavior in the industry after bombshell revelations last year about Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's alleged pattern of pressuring actresses for sex.

Two music legends, hip-hop producer Russell Simmons and former Metropolitan Opera music director James Levine, have been suspended or stepped down from roles following multiple allegations of sexual abuse, although both men were already in the twilights of their careers.