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Roy Price, ousted from Amazon over sexual harassment claims, is ready to talk

By Stacy Perman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

Three years ago, Roy Price, then head of Amazon Studios, was at the Four Seasons resort in Santa Barbara when his phone rang.

It was Oct. 12, 2017, and he had arrived for Campfire — the super-secret, invite-only gathering of influential artists, celebrities, writers and thinkers that Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos hosted each fall.

Price occupied one of Hollywood's plummier perches. Holding sway over a $7-billion content budget, he led Amazon Studios' rocket ride from modest video-on-demand service to major industry player with such acclaimed programming as "Transparent," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and the Oscar-winning movie "Manchester by the Sea."

By all appearances, Price was on an upswing. Then, Jeff Blackburn, Amazon's senior vice president, called.

That afternoon, Isa Hackett, executive producer of one of Amazon's most popular series, "The Man in the High Castle," had gone public with claims that Price had made lewd comments and unwanted sexual advances toward her two years earlier.

On the call, Blackburn told Price that he would be placed on unpaid leave. The next day, his fiancee called off their wedding. Four days later, Amazon announced that Price was stepping down.

 

His exit drew tremendous attention, coming just weeks after the New York Times and the New Yorker had published blockbuster revelations about decades of sexual misconduct by Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Other claims about Price's behavior — including allegations that he'd made vulgar comments and propositioned women at work functions — materialized in news reports after his departure.

In the wake of his ouster, Price decamped to Asia in a self-imposed exile. After nearly three years of grappling with the implosion of his career at Amazon, Price is talking publicly for the first time. He denied claims of sexually harassing Hackett and chalks the episode up to a failed attempt at humor; a mistake, he says, that was conflated with abuse and cast as predation. Price referred to some of the other claims against him as neither "instructive or characteristic" of him or his career.

Sporting a Sanskrit tattoo on his left arm that says, "The truth will prevail," inked while in India, Price is by turns apologetic, circumspect, opaque and defensive.

"Look, I don't want to appear to be trying to elicit anyone's sympathy," he said. But at the same time, Price believes the #MeToo wrecking ball that brought down Weinstein, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, comedian Louis C.K., "Today" co-host Matt Lauer and others has hit him with disproportionate force.

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