Roy Price’s Top Amazon Lieutenants Under Scrutiny
By: Daniel Holloway
Roy Price is gone from Amazon Studios, bounced from his post as president as a result of detailed sexual harassment allegations. Now the ground looks increasingly unsteady beneath members of his executive team.
Joe Lewis, head of drama and comedy development at Amazon Studios, has already seen his purview shrink significantly this year. Under orders from Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos to reorient the studio’s efforts toward large-scale genre series with the potential for broad international appeal, Price this year brought in former Fox international executive Sharon Tal Yguado as head of event series. Subsequently, resources have been shifted away from Lewis’ unit and toward Tal Yguado’s, from which most of Amazon’s recent development has sprung. Multiple sources in the creative community had, prior to Price’s departure, expressed confusion over the lines separating Lewis and Tal Yguado and whether Lewis — who shepherded the niche half-hours such as “Transparent” and “Mozart in the Jungle” that have defined Amazon’s original-programming brand but which Bezos wants fewer of — was still a viable executive to pitch to.
Compounding Lewis’ predicament is an investigation into his behavior toward women.
Business website the Information reported in August that Amazon had launched an investigation of Price following an alleged 2015 incident in which he was accused of making unwanted sexual advances and comments to Isa Hackett, an executive producer on Amazon’s original drama “The Man in the High Castle.” The report also noted that, while the outcome of that investigation was unknown, Christine Farrell of Public Interest Investigations had, after speaking with Amazon employees regarding the alleged Price incident in 2015, conducted another round of interviews this spring regarding the behavior of a second Amazon Studios executive.
Variety has learned that Lewis was the subject of that second inquiry, the outcome of which is also not known. With Price having been suspended by, then resigned from Amazon after Hackett went public with her claims, speculation has ramped up regarding Lewis’ job security. As the impact of the assault and harassment allegations against mogul Harvey Weinstein continues to be felt, public pressure has increased on companies perceived as fostering atmospheres conducive to abusive or inappropriate behavior. Lewis also reportedly pressured producers into casting his girlfriend, Yara Martinez, on original series “The Tick,” a move that negatively affected morale within Amazon Studios.
Price was suspended last week just hours after Hackett went public with her claims. On Tuesday, he resigned from Amazon.
Price was replaced in the interim by Albert Cheng, a veteran of ABC’s digital operation who for the last two years has served as Amazon Studios’ COO. Sources tell Variety he is likely to stay in the top job on a permanent basis, although it is unclear whether he might be paired with a high-profile programming executive. One option is for Tal Yguado, who lured “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman to Amazon with an overall deal announced last month, to lead creative at the studio. Speculation is also high regarding Paramount Television president Amy Powell, who had previously had talks with Amazon about a special role separate from Price’s team — talks that failed to come to fruition. The names of several other high-profile female executives have been floated as well.
A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment for this story.
Another Amazon executive on the hot seat is unscripted head Conrad Riggs, who multiple producers and agents tell Variety appears likely to depart Amazon in the wake of Price’s exit. Riggs, a former producer on “Survivor,” helped Amazon bring former “Top Gear” host Jeremy Clarkson to the streaming service in a lucrative deal. But the resulting series, “The Grand Tour,” has not generated the buzz that its predecessor, one of the most watched television programs in the world, did. Other Amazon unscripted efforts such as documentary series “American Playboy: The Hugh Hefner Story” and food show “Eat the World With Emeril Lagasse” have failed to make a splash.
Amazon reps have denied a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month claiming that Price had been interviewing possible executives to take over Amazon’s feature film operation — a role currently filled by Ted Hope.