Former Arista Records executive Drew Dixon has filed a lawsuit against L.A. Reid, alleging the music mogul continually harassed and sexually assaulted her twice in 2001 while she was working for him, according to court records obtained by Rolling Stone.
Dixon sued in the Southern District of New York on Wednesday under the Adult Survivors Act, which opened up a one-year window for victims of sexual offenses to file a civil suit against their abuser outside the statute of limitations’ expiration date. The window closes on November 24, 2023.
Dixon has been a vocal supporter of the 2022 act after coming forward to The New York Times in 2017 to accuse Russell Simmons — another mega producer who co-founded Def Jam Recordings — of rape. (Simmons denied her claim.) In that same interview, there was a brief mention that Dixon also faced continued harassment from Antonio Marquis “L.A.” Reid during her music career. At the time, Reid said in a statement he apologized if his words were “misinterpreted.”
In the suit, Dixon claims her encounters with Reid went beyond just harassment, but also two instances of sexual assault, once on a private plane and another in a back of Reid’s private car. “L.A. Reid is a known predator, who uses his singular professional power to force himself on his victims,” Dixon said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “In my case, his persistent campaign of sexual harassment and assault forced me to abandon the work I loved when I was at the top of my game in the music business, having worked my way up from internships and a job as a receptionist.”
In 2017, Reid departed from Epic Records — where he was the chairman and CEO — after an assistant accused the executive of sexual harassment. The complaint was made to Epic’s parent company Sony Music, and Variety reported there were “multiple” accusations leveled against Reid. The music executive, who is starting a new record label with Usher, is credited for helping establish the careers of Usher, Mariah Carey, TLC, and Avril Lavigne, among many others. (Reid could not be immediately reached for comment.)
Dixon’s career was on the rise when she arrived at Arista Records in 1996, according to the suit, joining the label as Senior Director of A&R after leaving Def Jam in 1995 following Simmons’ alleged sexual assault. She worked her way up to Vice President of A&R by the time Reid was brought to Arista Records as CEO and president in 2000. “Almost immediately … Mr. Reid began sexualizing and harassing Ms. Dixon,” the lawsuit claims.
Even before his start date, Reid allegedly invited Dixon to tour apartments with him, as he was relocating from Atlanta to New York City for the new position. Although Dixon was under the impression that Reid’s wife would be present at the viewings, she arrived to find it was just going to be herself, Reid and the real estate agent. “During the entire afternoon of showings, Mr. Reid made flirtatious comments,” the suit claims. “It was so pervasive that it caused the realtor to comment to Ms. Dixon privately that he was left with the impression that Mr. Reid was ‘in love with her.’”
In January 2001, Dixon’s suit alleges that she was invited on a private plane to travel with Reid and other senior executives to a company retreat in Puerto Rico. Again, Dixon arrived to find that she was alone with Reid, who allegedly began “flirting with her right away.” While waiting for the others, the suit claims, Reid requested for Dixon to sit next to him and go over work materials, but he allegedly began “playing with her hair, kissing her and digitally penetrat[ing] her vulva without her consent.” For the remainder of the trip, Dixon alleges she had her assistant by her side in order to avoid Reid’s sexual advances.
Back in New York following the trip, Dixon alleges that she tried to “navigate the treacherous balance between maintaining a working relationship without succumbing to Mr. Reid’s sexual advances,” such as avoiding his late-night phone calls, turning down his requests of meetings in hotel rooms, and wearing frumpy clothing that Reid didn’t like.
However, the suit claims, Reid grew unhappy with Dixon and retaliated against her by allegedly being unprofessional and embarrassing her in front of her colleagues. In some cases, Dixon claims that Reid would shoot down or blow off potential artists that she brought into Arista Records, including a young Kanye West and John Legend.
At another point in 2001, Dixon claims that following a work event that Reid offered her a ride home in his private car so they could finish some work and listen to a demo from Alice Smith. Dixon claims she accepted the offer because Reid’s driver would be present.
“Shortly into the ride,” the suit alleges, “Mr. Reid again, without Ms. Dixon’s permission or consent began to grope and kiss Ms. Dixon, who squirmed and pushed him away as Mr. Reid’s driver stared straight ahead. When Mr. Reid complained and became visibly irritated with her lack of compliance, Ms. Dixon froze. Mr. Reid again digitally penetrated Ms. Dixon’s vulva without her consent.”
Following the alleged assault, Dixon claims her career suffered at Arista due to Reid, who allegedly would “directly respond” to the rejection by suddenly slashing or freezing promotional and recording budgets for Dixon’s artists and vetoing their song demos and auditions.
Eventually, feeling there was no pathway forward not only at Arista but in the music industry in general, Dixon resigned and enrolled at Harvard Business School in 2002. She alleges her career never recovered and even as recently as 2017, Reid was allegedly interfering with her career.
As part of the civil suit, Dixon is seeking general and punitive damages and legal fees. Dixon’s attorney Kenya Davis added in a statement given to Rolling Stone, “Drew was at the pinnacle of her career, collaborating with music legends and identifying future stars when she began working closely with L.A. Reid, who up until that time was a trusted industry peer. As soon as he became CEO of Arista Records, he leveraged his position of authority to sexually harass and assault her. The Adult Survivors Act is a critical tool in holding perpetrators accountable, and we look forward to fighting for Drew and other victims of sexual misconduct whose careers have suffered as a result of them speaking out.”