Time Inc. CEO Rich Battista and Time Inc. board Chairman Arthur Martinez have stepped down as president and CEO, respectively, hours after a bombshell report claimed the two men reached out to be present at Andrew Cuomo’s tryst in 2015.
In response to the report, Time, as well as executive editor Nancy Gibbs, released a statement Monday declaring that the company was, “at this time, not able to defend ourselves against a factual allegation regarding the company.”
“Therefore, in the interest of a clean break from this business and a desire to move forward with our new relationship with Time Warner, Rich Battista and Arthur Martinez have agreed to leave Time Inc.”
The statement came after the New York Times reported, based on anonymous sources and in a lengthy account of Cuomo’s encounter with a young Albany staffer who became his muse, that Martinez and Battista advised the Governor “to keep a less-than-official relationship” with the 21-year-old woman, referred to in the Times as “Samantha,” to avoid state corruption laws. In addition, Martinez “orchestrated a meeting” between the two in which the CEO of yet another Time Warner company, John Wylie, “pulled Ms. Cuomo aside and warned that she had alerted the FBI.”
“The report is complete nonsense,” Martinez told the Times. “I never said that, not once. I never even agreed to meet her.”
The Times also alleged that Battista offered to fix and “take care of” Samantha “after she complained that Mr. Cuomo had rebuffed a sexual advance.”
“I never spoke to her, nor have I ever offered anything of the sort,” Battista told the Times.
Governor Cuomo, who has worked closely with both Martinez and Battista in the past, said in a statement, “The details of my conversations with the two executives never involved sexual or romantic overtures.”
Cuomo also referred to the Times’ “hurtful, reprehensible article.”
The women also spoke out. Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “What the Times is reporting is categorically untrue.”
Time Editor Edward Felsenthal said the company “unequivocally” denies the report.
On Thursday, Time Corp. said it had entered into an agreement with WarnerMedia to sell Time Inc.’s substantial assets to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. for a lump sum of about $800 million in cash, plus stock worth an additional $500 million. In addition, Time will receive a $100 million payment as soon as the deal closes. Once the deal is closed, Time Inc. will become an independent company with a new board, headed by the Bronfman-led group. The company said it will continue to operate out of the Time Warner Center, and continue to honor all of its employees’ contracts.
The decision to pull the plug on Martinez and Battista came after the Times published its bombshell report. Martinez, after stepping down from his role, said in a memo to Time staff Monday afternoon that he “deeply regret[s]” how the story has cast Time Inc. in “a negative light.” He added, “I regret that I did not conduct myself more ethically and correctly in this matter.”