5 Top Executives Quit Dick Clark Productions Amid 'Toxic Culture' Complaints

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5 Top Executives Quit Dick Clark Productions Amid ‘Toxic Culture’ Complaints

Insiders complain about the management style of DCP President Amy Thurlow

Five senior executives have abruptly quit Dick Clark Productions, the company behind the Golden Globes and the upcoming Academy of Country Music Awards, amid complaints of what one insider called a “toxic culture,” TheWrap has learned.

In the past few weeks, the production company has seen an exodus of top executives, including Linda Gierahn, executive vice president of production; Mark Bracco, executive vice president of programming and development; Amy Pfister, vice president of communications; Rika Camizianos, VP of creative content and postproduction — brand, marketing and digital strategy; and Ben Roy, vice president of programming and development.

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Another top executive, EVP of Digital Strategy Ariel Elazar, has moved out of DCP into another division of parent company MRC Entertainment, which is co-owned by Modi Wiczyk, Asif Satchu and Todd Boehly. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed Bracco had left DCP and said the others would be leaving after this year’s ACMs on April 18.

According to multiple individuals with knowledge of the company, the chief source of tension is Amy Thurlow, who joined DCP in 2014 and was elevated to president in November 2019, and Mark Shimmel, the company’s head of talent management. One insider described Thurlow as someone who was “very, very challenging” to work for, calling out a management style “that could be classified as toxic.”

Dick Clark Productions President Amy Thurlow with Ricky Gervais and then- Hollywood Foreign Press Association head Lorenzo Soria ahead of the 2020 Golden Globe Awards. (Getty Images)

Another said of Thurlow: “She’s poison. She’s oppressive, she’s a bully. Toxic is the word that keeps coming up over and over again.”

As for Shimmel, two insiders described him as exhibiting aggressive, bullying behavior toward subordinates, which led to at least two complaints to the human resources department. “It is astounding to me that he is still employed at that company,” one insider said.

Shimmel did not respond to a request for comment from TheWrap.

A spokeswoman had no comment on the allegations of a toxic culture but defended Thurlow’s management. “We know Amy Thurlow to be incredibly appreciative and supportive of all the efforts and hard work of her team in a particularly challenging year,” the spokesperson said. “As a new leader of the division, she has made changes and recently articulated goals and growth plans, it’s understandable that change is not for everyone.”

But concerns about Thurlow’s management style have extended beyond its Santa Monica headquarters. At last September’s Academy of Country Music Awards in Nashville, Thurlow created a “huge fuss” at the Opryland Hotel when she didn’t get the presidential suite, according to three individuals with knowledge of the incident. Her outburst made such waves that, according to one insider, the famed hotel had to consult the Academy of Country Music to find a solution.

“When she threw her tantrum over the presidential suite, there was a lot of snickering,” another individual said.

The MRC spokeswoman had no comment on the hotel incident.

Dick Clark’s son Rac, the executive producer of the ACMs, said he regretted that the culture of the company had changed since his father’s death in 2012. “My father ran it like a Mom and Pop business, he said. “He used to walk around and clean up after the dogs. He’d turn off the light when people left. It was that sort of company. The people who have gone on since have increased the value, they were amazing businessmen and women, but it’s just a different vibe now.”

He added: “I’m sad that the young folks who were being ready to be the next generation are gone — it makes me sad.”

Still, what is particularly notable about the staff exodus is that several of those who decided to leave did so without another job lined up. Many were longtime staffers — Camizianos had been at DCP for 12 years, Bracco for eight. Said one knowledgeable individual: “They’re trying to push a narrative of people being exhausted. That is just not true.”

One executive with knowledge of the company said that there was widespread resentment at DCP over a perceived lack of appreciation by management after a brutal COVID year, when the company successfully pivoted to producing virtual award shows amid strict pandemic guidelines.

But another longtime DCP executive said Thurlow looked out for her team, noting that she canceled her flight from Nashville when a staffer had a medical emergency after the ACMs. “She’d do that for anyone on her team,” the executive said. “She’s a good person.”

54th Academy of Country Music Awards in 2019 (Getty Images)

The reports of toxic culture cannot be welcome at MRC Entertainment, which has been striving to improve its reputation after a scandal in 2018 that resulted in the resignation of John Amato, the CEO of The Hollywood Reporter-Billboard. The trades were owned by MRC, called Valence at the time. Amato stepped down in February 2018 after an internal investigation into accusations of sexual harassment and inappropriate influence over editorial operations.

A Daily Beast report at that time echoed some of the current complaints at DCP, saying an internal investigation questioned whether the company had addressed complaints of inappropriate behavior.

Last year, Penske Media Corporation, owner of Rolling Stone, Variety and Deadline, reached a deal with MRC to take over operations of The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe. MRC retained ownership and operations of its entertainment assets, including Dick Clark Productions. Early last year, Mike Mahan transitioned from CEO of DCP to vice chairman, which insiders described as more of a consulting role.

Insiders also expressed dismay that DCP has been silent on the firestrom swirling around the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization behind the Golden Globes. DCP has produced the Globes for decades and has a longstanding partnership with the HFPA. One DCP insider who does not work on the Globes telecast expressed surprise that DCP has not publicly commented on the HFPA’s lack of diversity and history of self-dealing — even after executives at broadcast partner NBC recently said they have pushed for “necessary changes” to the organization.

Last month, the HFPA vowedto expand its rolls and have at least 13% Black members by the end of 2021. That announcement came shortly after dozens of Hollywood PR firms threatened a blackout of the Golden Globes and all HFPA events by their clients. That also came as TheWrap previously reported that the HFPA denied requests to hold press conferences for three major projects with Black-led casts in recent years, including “Bridgerton,” “Girls Trip” and “Queen & Slim.

Along with the American Country Music Awards and Globes, DCP also produces the annual “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” “American Music Awards” as well as a pair of Nick Wallenda specials.

Tim Baysinger