By Jayraj Patel
Amazon’s studio head Roy Price was pivotal in driving the organisation’s visual content strategy for almost 13 years until last month when executives asked him to resign from the post. His departure comes after TV Producer Isa Hackett lodged a complaint against the 50-year old for sexually harassing her at multiple company parties. Seems fair enough. However, surprisingly, she made the complaint almost two years ago.
The world’s biggest e-commerce company took two years to investigate and act against one of their key executives. Moreover, this was after a verbal testimony had been given by the victim to multiple officials in the company regarding his shameful actions back in 2015. The timing of Price’s ouster suggests that Amazon’s verdict is fueled by the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the attention that it has received globally.
Who is Roy Price?
Roy Price was born in 1967 to a family that worked and breathed Hollywood. His mother, Catherine Crawford, was an actor and starred in movies like Riding with Death (1976), A Walk in the Spring Rain (1970) and Gemini Man (1976). His father, Frank Price, rose through the ranks in Hollywood, from a story editor and writer for CBS-TV in early the 50s, to serving as an executive at Universal Pictures, Colombia Pictures and Sony Pictures in the 80s and 90s. Naturally, Roy grew up around celebrities and went for movie shoots where he assisted his father.
Roy graduated from the Harvard University in 1985 and finished his Law from the University of Southern California Gould School in 1995. Following this, he joined Disney Studios for a stint of five years, at the end of which he became the Vice President for Series Development and Current Programming. In 2004, he joined Amazon while he was exploring startups in digital video streaming. Ever since, he has played an active role in handling the e-commerce giant’s studio business, including Amazon Prime, which is behind only Netflix in terms of subscriber base. He has helped the company acquire and produce various movie and television series that have been critically acclaimed, including Transparent and Manchester by the Sea, which won six Academy Award Nominations in 2016. The current year was supposed to be the biggest for the studio, as Roy had aggressively planned to launch more content than ever after the success they achieved in the last two years.
When Roy harassed colleague Isa Hackett
In July 2015, Isa Hackett, the executive producer of Man in the High Castle was promoting the show at the San Diego Comic Con. She met Roy later that night at the company dinner and was invited by him to a staff party. Hackett, Price and another company executive shared a cab on their way to the party where Price started insinuating that he was interested in her and made a provocative remark. Even after instantly making it clear that she was in a committed relationship, a drunk and intoxicated Roy kept at it throughout the evening.
Isa reported the incident to multiple company seniors and an internal investigation was launched initially. Eventually, Isa wasn’t made aware of the investigation’s result, but she noted that Price stopped attending any of her show’s events in the time that followed.
Justice is served! Or is it?
In October this year, Isa decided to raise her voice and tell everyone about what she had witnessed and gave an exclusive interview to Hollywood Reporter. In response, Amazon immediately suspended Price and issued a statement to the public, which stated that Roy Price was on a ‘leave of absence effective immediately’. Roy has received immense flak and criticism, especially since Isa was heavily influenced to speak out against Roy by the on-going Harvey Weinstein scandal. In her interview, she has clearly accepted that she was inspired by all the women who had collaborated to take a stand against the actions of the Hollywood veteran. She said these women spoke of horrific experiences where they were victimised, not only to punish the accused but to ensure that no other woman faces such things.
A delayed verdict
Whether Roy deserved to be fired from his post is a relatively debatable concept, given the difference in the severity of abuse committed by him, compared to Weinstein. Roy hasn’t issued any public statement up until now, but why did Amazon take such a long time to address the issue effectively back in 2015? And ironically, how could it respond to the issue with such speed after it was reported to the media in October 2017?
Amazon may argue that the internal investigation took longer than anticipated and may stick to their official buttery statements, which revolve around workplace conduct and employee safety, and how they cannot tolerate unethical and illegal misconduct or abuse of power by any employee and will directly address any such issues. These statements look good on paper, but companies must ensure that they follow and practice the standards they aspire to and advertise about. Unfortunately, in the case of Amazon, no argument can defend their position, as they clearly did not address the critical issue when they should have. They did not act when it would have meant something for the victim. Instead, they reached a verdict, in a rush, at the wrong time, only because the company’s reputation was at stake.
There’s no denying the fact that Roy’s actions were miserable, shameful, and disgusting. The drunken antics of Roy Price were well known by his peers and the things he said to Isa Hackett surely deserve all the backlash. However, is the forced resignation fair? If the company had addressed the issue in 2015 properly, it may have been possible for the case to have been solved with milder consequences. Incidentally, Roy was about to get married this month, but his fiancé Lila Feinberg called off the wedding right after the news went public.
Whether Roy was personally involved in keeping the case a secret or was Amazon simply ‘too busy’ to follow up, we may never truly know. However, Amazon is at fault, and sadly, like so many other corporate giants, it has gotten away with it.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons