Penguin Holds Book by John Doerr and Startup CEO Amid Harassment Suit

  • ‘Measure What Matters’ won’t be published in September
  • BetterWorks CEO Kris Duggan and execs sued by former employee

Penguin Random House pulled plans to publish a book co-written by venture capitalist John Doerr and BetterWorks Systems Inc. Chief Executive Officer Kris Duggan following a sexual harassment and assault suit against Duggan.

Beatrice Kim, a former employee at BetterWorks, last week sued Duggan and two other executives at the startup, alleging they created a hostile workplace for women. The suit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, includes allegations of sexual assault and harassment.

Kim’s lawsuit is among recent allegations by women working in the male-dominated technology sector who, once silent, are now coming forward with stories of mistreatment by men in positions of power. Uber Technologies Inc. is attempting to overhaul its culture following a detailed account of sexual harassment by engineer Susan Fowler. Venture investors Justin Caldbeck at Binary Capital, Dave McClure at 500 Startups and Frank Artale at Ignition Partners have resigned from their firms following detailed accounts of their mistreatment of women.

Bloomberg reported last week that the lawsuit against BetterWorks and Duggan wasn’t expected to affect Doerr’s plans to promote the book. But Penguin said Monday that it’s holding publication of “Measure What Matters,” written by Duggan and Doerr, chairman of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and board member at BetterWorks. 

“We and the authors have agreed to defer publication of Measure What Matters at the present time,” said Adrian Zackheim, president and publisher of Portfolio, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, which is a division of Penguin Random House.

The book focuses on goal setting and performance practices, using examples of musician and investor Bono, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and was slated to be released in the coming months. It is no longer available for preorder on Amazon.com Inc. and the book’s website is no longer accessible.

Kleiner Perkins and Doerr, who invested personal money in BetterWorks, a business software maker, aren’t named in the harassment lawsuit. Doerr and the firm declined to comment Monday on Penguin’s decision to postpone the book.

BetterWorks said it received a complaint from Kim in late 2016. Its board hired an independent investigator who concluded none of the company’s policies was violated, according to the lawsuit and a statement from the board.

“Both the company and the board disagree with a number of facts and characterizations presented in the lawsuit,” BetterWorks’ board said Monday in the statement.

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