Archie Comics Employees File $32.5 Million Lawsuit Against Co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit
The last few years have seen a contentious legal battle take place between Archie Comics and embattled Archie co-CEO Nancy Silberkleit. And in the latest development, six employees -- including Archie Comics Editor-in-Chief Victor Gorelick -- have filed a $32.5 million lawsuit against Silberkleit, accusing her of "destructive, dangerous and at times deranged behavior."
As reported by the New York Post, the 29-page lawsuit, filed in Westchester County, New York, seeks a permanent injunction which would bar Silberkleit from entering the Archie offices, as well as forbid her from having any contact with the plaintiffs or their families.
According to the employees, the suit is a "last ditch effort" to remove Silberkleit from the offices. This is a move that likely comes as little surprise to any who have been following developments in this situation since July 2011, when Archie initially filed a lawsuit against Silberkleit for sexual harassment. That was settled in court, but in this latest lawsuit, the six employees described the continuing contentious relationship between Siberkleit and the company, and the effect they believe her alleged behavior has had, in no uncertain terms:
“While World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not stop the publication of Archie Comics, the war-like attitude and approach of [Silberkleit] may destroy Archie Comics unless the court intervenes.”
Among the accusations launched at Silberkleit -- who runs an anti-bullying foundation called "Rise Above Social Issues" and has also brought sexual sexual harassment claims against her co-workers -- are claims that she tried to hire a Hell's Angel to come to the Mamaroneck-based Archie offices to intimidate employees and, perhaps most famously, the often-repeated story that she once interrupted an office meeting to scream "Penis! Penis! Penis! Penis!" to the four men sitting in the room. Silberkleit's former assistant, Jim Paget, asserts that while in her employ she tasked him with "digging up dirt" on other employees. When he refused, Paget claims, he was dismissed from his position. Paget currently serves as an archivist for the publisher.
Silberkleit is the widow of Michael Silberkleit, the former chairman of Archie and son of company co-founder Louise Silberkleit. Michael Silberkleit passed away in 2007, leaving Nancy Silberkleit as co-CEO, along with Jon Goldwater, the son of co-founder John L. Goldwater. Accounts from the Archie offices indicate that the contentious relationship has had a crippling effect on the publisher; as disputed co-executor of her late husband's estate, Silberkleit owns a 50% controlling stake in the company, with Goldwater owning 25% of the companies shares and representing the 25% that belonged to Richard Goldwater, his half brother who passed away in 2008. The 50/50 split allegedly leads to stalemates between the two parties on a number of decisions.
As reported by CBR, in the suit the six employees seek to have $7.5 million of the $32.5 million to go toward establishing an anti-bullying initiative.