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David Davidar asked to leave Penguin over sexual harassment allegations

Earlier this week, when news broke that Penguin Canada president David Davidar was resigning from the company, the explanation he gave Q&Q and the rest of the media was that he simply wanted to return to India with his wife, Rachna Davidar, and focus on his writing career. Late Friday afternoon, however, Penguin vice-president of marketing and publicity Yvonne Hunter sent out a rather shocking press release that flat-out contradicted his statements. The full text of the release is as follows:

Lisa Rundle, former Rights and Contracts Director of Penguin Canada, brought an action yesterday against David Davidar, the former President of Penguin Canada, alleging sexual harassment. Ms. Rundle also made a number of claims relating to Penguin Canada including wrongful termination.

Ms. Rundle was not terminated by Penguin Canada, but rather she advised the company of her decision to leave after having declined to pursue other career opportunities within the organization.

Mr. Davidar was asked to leave the company last month and his departure was announced on June 8. Mr. Davidar will play no further role in the company.

Penguin Canada expects to appoint a new head of the Canadian company in the near future.

Out of respect for the privacy of the individuals involved, the company will not provide further comment at this time.

Shortly after Penguin sent out its press release, Davidar himself sent the following message to Q&Q:

I was disappointed to learn today that Penguin Canada has made a public statement about litigation commenced against the company and myself.

Earlier this week it was announced that I would be leaving Penguin Canada.  At Penguin’s request, I agreed to publicly state that my departure was voluntary.  The truth is that a former colleague accused me of sexual harassment and Penguin terminated my employment.

I had a friendship with my colleague which lasted for three years.  I am utterly shocked by the allegations.  I am dismayed that Penguin Canada chose to respond to them by directing me to leave Penguin.  I intend to defend the allegations vigorously in the courts, and  I am certain that the truth will prevail.

As I said earlier this week, I intend to pursue my writing career. I do not intend to make further comment on the pending legal proceedings.

To add a bit of context to this unfolding story, Lisa Rundle started out at Penguin as contracts and rights assistant several years ago. On Oct. 31, 2005, Rundle announced that she was leaving the company for a position as rights and contracts coordinator at Random House of Canada. Almost immediately after that announcement, however, Rundle’s superior at Penguin, contracts manager Catherine MacGregor, left the company for a position with HarperCollins Canada. Consequently, Rundle changed her mind about leaving Penguin and stayed on to fill MacGregor’s role.

At the time, Davidar’s executive assistant Samantha Francis told Q&Q: We went straight to Lisa [without interviewing anyone else.] We made her an excellent offer. Also at that time, Davidar offered a statement through Francis: Lisa Rundle is incredibly knowledgeable and is an excellent negotiator. She is someone I value very highly.

In October of 2009, when Davidar became CEO of Penguin International and Nicole Winstanley took over as publisher, Rundle was promoted yet again, this time to director of rights and digital management. It is not clear when Rundle took leave of the company.