December 15, 2016

Team Clermont Co-Founder's Comments Led to Staffer Resignations


In September, several employees of the Athens-based music-PR firm Team Clermont resigned abruptly. Now, the reason for the staff shake-up has been clarified.

As detailed in a Bitch Media article that has been widely shared on social media, the situation stemmed from "inappropriate remarks" Team Clermont co-founder Nelson Wells made regarding one of the firm's clients at the time, Brooklyn band The Shondes.

From the article:

Wells made inappropriate remarks about the physical appearance of the client’s Facebook friends, including the phrase “beautiful ladies at the cow farm,” and offered to keep the client’s rates low if they would “introduce [him] to any of [their] lovely lady friends” or send other musicians to Team Clermont for representation.

When it became clear that Wells would remain in his current role at Team Clermont despite his comments, several employees—two of whom, Shil Patel and Cecile Duncan, are quoted in the article—resigned in protest.

Bill Benson, Team Clermont's other co-founder, sent the following statement to Bitch Media:

Something insensitive and unprofessional was said, and it was immediately regretted. As a company, we addressed the issue quickly and discussed together how to not only make amends, but to face head-on any ignorances we have. Unfortunately, situations like this do come up from time to time and it's our obligation to treat them as a valuable learning opportunity professionally and personally. We make no excuses, and we are fully committed to instilling a culture of respect in our office and in our everyday lives.

Today, Patel posted a link to the story on Facebook, saying it "sheds some light on the situation that was the tipping point which led me to leave the job I'd had for nearly 10 years and venture out on my own."

Patel clarified that statement in an email to Flagpole, saying that he first learned of Wells' comments in an email thread involving members of The Shondes, and that "staying on and continuing to work in that environment would be me endorsing that behavior, something that I could not do."

This news comes nearly a year after the implosion of Los Angeles-based Life or Death PR, which occurred after that company's founder, Heathcliff Berru, was accused of sexual harrassment by several female musicians. The event sparked a wide-ranging conversation about sexism in the music industry, specifically relating to the spheres of journalism and PR.

Benson tells Flagpole he has more he wants to say about the situation but, for now, he wishes his former employees "the best of luck in music or whatever industry they choose to go into," adding that Team Clermont "is very busy, as we’re moving into a new office on Jan. 1, have a full roster of new records coming out in ’17 and just brought on a new publicist in Brooklyn. This was three months ago. We’ve rebounded and are rebuilding."

We've reached out to Wells and a few former Team Clermont staffers, and will follow up as this story develops.

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that several Team Clermont employees resigned in protest, not just the two that were initially reported.