EXCLUSIVE: The blast radius from the end of Andrew Cuomo’s reign in the Empire State this week could see another chief executive forced to exit, or at least face a reckoning.
“Time’s Up at an inflection point,” stated another Hollywood A-lister who has worked closely with the group and its President and CEO Tina Tchen. “Continuing with Tina at the helm is looking untenable, whether a decision comes this week or down the road,” they added following a hard hitting New York Times piece on the group and its leadership.
The Times story was first published online on August 21, and appeared on the paper’s front page today.
Late last week, CEO Tchen called a 9 AM PST Monday “briefing” for Time’s Up “founding signatories and entertainment leadership” to discuss “all of the recent news” around the increasingly enervated advocacy group.
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In the shadow of the NYT piece, the not altogether rare “non-transferable” virtual gathering now has the potential to become “part focus group, part referendum” on Tchen’s increasingly troubled tenure, an industry insider with ties to the 2017 founded organization tells Deadline. “This may be a come to Mary moment for Tina and Time’s Up,” the insider added.
Called late on August 19 via email by former Michelle Obama chief of staff Tchen as the Times piece was being prepared for publication, tomorrow morning’s meeting was originally set as a reset of sorts and less of a crisis call.
The past few weeks saw the gender equity group dealt a PR and moral blow after the resignation of board chair Roberta Kaplan in early August following revelations of the high profile lawyer and her firm providing advice to the soon-to-be ex-New York Governor over damning allegations of sexual harassment. As well, several survivors of sexual misconduct have publicly claimed Time’s Up ignored taking up their cases or were less than open about their intentions.
With a number of key players dissatisfied over the lack of transparency at the top, tomorrow’s meeting may see calls for Tchen to step aside after two years running Time’s Up. Correspondingly, a initiative for Tchen to step back for a period as an independent investigation is conducted into who knew what when and who decided what is gaining steam.
“There is a growing sense of mission creep taking hold,” the industry insider claims of the group founded in 2017 out of the accusations leveled at now convicted sex offender Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement. “Too much time and attention was spent on attacking the Hollywood Foreign Press (HFPA) and that pulled attention away from our core agenda and institutional efforts we were making in D.C., with legislation.”
It should be noted that Tchen penned a guest column for Deadline in March of this year on the “catastrophic” damage the Covid-19 pandemic has had on women, in and out the entertainment industry.
If Tchen were to leave or take a hiatus, Hollywood heavyweight attorney and Time’s Up board vice chair Nina Shaw is seen as a likely interim President and CEO by a number of principals, I hear. However, the busy Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano founding partner has indicated she will not accept the role, interim or not, if asked — which she has not been, I’m told. In that context, several other candidates could emerge in the fluid situation.
Representatives for Time’s Up could not be reached for comment by Deadline today on the situation at the group and the state of Tchen’s leadership. We will update if we do get a response.
However, Tchen did take to social media earlier Sunday comment on the NY Times story. The CEO promised “we’re committed to rebuilding trust and leading responsibly in ways that honor and center the very people we want to serve.” Tchen also said “We will have more to share in the coming days.”
What that will be looks TBD right now.
The lengthy NYT piece from Jodi Kantor, Arya Sundaram, Melena Ryzik and Cara Buckley unearthed even closer ties Kaplan had to Cuomo’s crew than earlier estimated. Those ties included giving the then battling Governor’s office a heads-up back in February about what a Time’s Up press release would say about him and the harassment allegations. As the NYT piece revealed other deep divisions within Time’s Up, the group told the paper that it has brought in consultants to examine its past and present priorities.
Coming off a Time’s Up board meeting in the last couple of weeks, Tchen was said to enjoy the support of a strong majority of the Tinseltown represented leadership. Co-founder Shonda Rhimes released a very strong statement to the Times for their story saying “Tina and her team are working to end the systematic patriarchy that has gone on for far too long, and I proudly support the organization that is fighting for this change.”
Yet, a variety of individuals now say that support for Tchen has ebbed, especially after the NY Times story published this weekend.
How much that support has declined may become top of the agenda at the Monday morning meeting
Tchen was named Time’s Up CEO and President in October 2019 after the resignation of Lisa Borders after just four months on the job after sexual assault allegations were made against her son.