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L.A. Reid Accused of Sexual Assault in Lawsuit From Former Employee

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Antonio “L.A.” Reid — the legendary music industry executive who headed up labels including Epic, Island Def Jam and Arista over the course of a storied career — has been sued for sexual assault and harassment by former Arista A&R executive Drew Dixon.

In a complaint filed Wednesday (Nov. 8) in U.S. District Court in New York, Dixon publicly claims for the first time that Reid sexually assaulted her on two separate occasions — incidents she claims derailed her once-promising career and ultimately cost her millions of dollars in lost income. Dixon had previously accused Reid of harassment in a 2017 article for The New York Times as well as a subsequent documentary.

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The lawsuit was brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, which allows alleged victims of sexual offenses that fall outside the statute of limitations to file civil suits for a year-long period spanning from Nov. 24, 2022, to Nov. 24, 2023.

Dixon contextualizes Reid’s alleged harassment and assault with the abuse she claims to have suffered at the hands of another former boss: Russell Simmons. In the same 2017 New York Times article where she lodged harassment claims against Reid, Dixon claimed that Simmons raped her during her tenure as an A&R executive at his Def Jam label. She now claims that Reid was “aware” of Simmon’s alleged assault at the time she began working for him at Arista — and that Reid nevertheless went on to abuse her as well.

According to the Nov. 8 complaint, the first alleged assault occurred on a private plane to Puerto Rico in 2001, when Dixon was serving as vp of A&R at Arista during Reid’s tenure as president/CEO. Dixon claims she was told not to book her own flight to Puerto Rico, where Reid was hosting a company-wide retreat, because Reid had invited a group of senior executives to join him on a private jet. But when she arrived, she claims she “was confused…to find Mr. Reid all alone.” Dixon claims that Reid began flirting right away and, after asking her to sit beside him to go over materials for a presentation, he began “kissing her and digitally penetrated her vulva without her consent.”

Dixon goes on to state that though she was entitled to her own room at the hotel in Puerto Rico, she insisted on sharing a room with her assistant “to avoid any possibility that Mr. Reid might try to find another way to be alone with her during the retreat.” She says that throughout their time there, she “stayed close to her assistant” before taking a commercial flight home in order to avoid a similar incident.

The second alleged assault occurred later that same year following a work event in New York, when Reid allegedly insisted that Dixon “join him for a ride to drop her at home so they could continue to discuss work and he could listen to some of the music she had been waiting for him to review,” including a demo of a young singer named Alice Smith. Dixon says she agreed because “it was not a very long ride” and because she knew Reid’s driver would be present — and also “that if she continued to avoid Mr. Reid, she would never be able to get anything approved for her artists.”

Not long into the car ride, Dixon alleges, Reid began “to grope and kiss” her as she “squirmed and pushed him away” while his driver “stared straight ahead.” After Reid allegedly “complained and became visibly irritated with her lack of compliance,” Dixon says she “froze” and claims that Reid once again “digitally penetrated” her vulva without her consent.

Following the second alleged assault, Dixon says she “intensified her efforts to avoid” Reid, knowing that reporting the alleged assaults would be “career ending.” Though she says she was advised by other Arista executives, at Reid’s behest, “to wear skirts and high heels” at work, she claims she began wearing “jeans and Birkenstock clogs” to the office under the belief that it would make her less of a target for Reid.

However, Dixon claims that Reid continued to sexually harass her, including by inviting her to meetings in his hotel room at the Four Seasons “night after night.” Though she says she continually turned down these overtures, she claims Reid began calling her late at night and that, when she began letting his calls go straight to voicemail, he “became angrier and angrier” and “turned hostile towards her, and her artists, and her ideas.”

Dixon claims Reid then channeled his anger into thwarting her career and the careers of her artists.

“Promotional and recording budgets were suddenly reduced dramatically or frozen altogether,” the complaint reads. “Song demos and artist auditions were flatly rejected. Ms. Dixon could not do her job at Arista, and she became increasingly concerned that her stifled success at Arista would impede her ability to secure a similar job at another label.”

Dixon additionally accuses Reid of “blocking” artists she attempted to sign — including, she claims, future megastars Kanye West and John Legend. After allegedly bringing in West for an audition, she claims Reid passed on the rapper “and then proceeded to berate Ms. Dixon in front of the whole A&R department about how bad she was at her job and what a waste of his time the audition had been, all while Kanye waited in the lobby.”

In the case of Legend, Dixon claims that while Reid initially showed some interest in the singer after Dixon played a demo for him, her subsequent refusals to join him in his hotel room led Reid to no-show at Legend’s audition as punishment.

“Once she realized Mr. Reid would continue to stifle her career and the prospects of any of the artists she brought to him and that he would continue to undermine the artists she had already signed like Toya in order to punish Ms. Dixon for rejecting his sexual pressures, Ms. Dixon gave up not just on Arista, but on her dream of starting a label,” the complaint reads. “She left Arista to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School in 2002. Resigned to the fact that she would not ever be able to function in the music industry without being sexualized.”

Dixon claims that after graduating from Harvard with honors in 2004, she joined Legend as a GM at his Homeschool Records, where she worked with the singer to co-executive produce Estelle‘s U.S. debut album, Shine, and arranged for West to record a feature on the Grammy-winning single “American Boy.” However, while working on the promotion of the album with staff at Atlantic Records, she claims coming into contact with Reid and Simmons’ “enablers” at the label “triggered depression” and caused her to retreat from the industry once again.

According to the complaint, Dixon came into contact with Reid once more, during his tenure as chairman/CEO at Island Def Jam, when she was trying to kickstart a career as a songwriter-producer. Claiming she “still had not worked through the abuse she had experienced in the music industry,” she says she set up a meeting with Reid to play a demo of her songs with the hope of placing them with some of his artists. During the meeting, she said Reid “insisted that she stand up and sing for him” despite coming to him as a songwriter-producer, leading to the return of “the crass feeling of being objectified” by Reid. “No amount of time, education, marital status, or additional hit records would undo the harm of the assaults,” the complaint reads.

Dixon says the legacy of Reid’s assaults is ongoing. In 2017, after starting her own label, The Ninth Floor, she alleges that an unnamed label executive who initially “appeared to love” the music of her artist, Ella Wylde, cut off communications after allegedly learning of Dixon’s history with Reid.

“Mr. Reid’s looming presence and power in the music industry affects Ms. Dixon in the present day,” the complaint reads. “As she attempts to participate in new dimensions of the industry such as the highly lucrative music royalty space where her combination of A&R chops and her Harvard MBA should make her a highly employable senior professional, Ms. Dixon has been told that although she is well-known, well-respected, and highly qualified, she is essentially blackballed because she has spoken out against Mr. Simmons and Mr. Reid. Thus, the harm is ongoing and unceasing.”

Dixon is suing Reid for sexual battery/assault, false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and gender-motivated violence. She is demanding a trial by jury.

Representatives for Reid’s current company, mega, did not return a request for comment at press time.

Though Dixon’s assault claims against Reid are new, Reid’s image began to crumble in 2017 when the then-Epic Records head was accused of sexually harassing one of his female assistants. That allegation led to Reid’s exit from the label, where it was alleged that other executives knew of his conduct but did nothing to stop it. Since that time, Reid has continued to work in the industry, launching the HitCo label alongside Charles Goldstuck before selling it to Concord in 2022. Earlier this year, Reid launched mega, a music collective co-founded by Usher which is distributed by Larry Jackson‘s gamma.

In 2020, Reid, also an accomplished record producer, sold his music catalog to Hipgnosis Songs Fund and joined the company’s advisory board.

Stories about sexual assault allegations can be traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can reach out to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). The organization provides free, confidential support to sexual assault victims. Call RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) or visit the anti-sexual violence organization’s website for more information.

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