Saturday, October 20, 2012

Rock Hall Museum's Jim Henke Steps Down

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Chris Parker/The Hollywood Reporter/Billboard

Jim Henke, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum's VP exhibitions and curatorial affairs, has left his position abruptly under a cloud of questions.

Henke, the longtime chief curator who had been with the museum since before its opening, stopped working there sometime last week. According to one Rock Hall staffer, Henke left amid allegations of sexual harassment involving a female museum employee. Rock Hall representatives did not address the accusations directly, telling The Hollywood Reporter that Henke's role "transitioned to that of a consultant" so that he could "focus on collecting and writing."

Before joining the Rock Hall, Henke was a writer and editor at Rolling Stone. During his 16-year tenure at the magazine, he wrote cover stories on Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, U2 and The Clash and spent more than a decade as its music editor. In the early '90s, Henke also worked as VP, product development at Elektra, handling such acts as The Breeders, Afghan Whigs and Moby.

Rock Hall brass haven't decided whether the position will remain or be contracted out.

Henke's departure comes as the museum and the Rock Hall Foundation continue their transition from an organization shadowed by their connections to Rolling Stone and Atlantic Records to something more autonomous. The first winds of change could be felt in 2006, when Hall co-founder Suzan Evans stepped down as foundation president in favor of Joel Peresman.

"Joel came in and has done a great job of making people here, in New York and elsewhere realize that the foundation exists to support the museum and the inductions," Rock Hall president Terry Stewart said.

Before that, some charged that the foundation existed for its own self-aggrandizement -- Evans earned a $300,000 salary and the organization threw lavish private parties at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York. (After Peresman came aboard, the foundation helped create a $5 million endowment for the museum's operating costs and kicked in an additional $15 million for capital improvements.)

Since taking over as CEO in 1999, Stewart has guided the once-faltering museum to greater profitability and stature, as well as bringing the induction ceremonies to Cleveland, the museum's home, every three years. But Stewart, who spent years as a businessman before helping revitalize Marvel Entertainment Group, announced that he will retire at the end of next year. His departure could leave a huge hole.

During Stewart's tenure, the foundation and induction ceremonies have become more inclusive. Public tickets are available for the ceremonies in Cleveland (though not in New York), and everyday music lovers now have a ballot for the Rock Hall inductees.

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