André Balazs, Celebrity Hotelier, Is Accused of Groping


The Times left repeated and detailed messages regarding these accusations with Mr. Balazs, his executive assistant and his personal publicist, Pierre Rougier. The messages were not returned. Attempts to reach Mr. Balazs through the general managers at his hotels were also unsuccessful.

Mr. Balazs stepped down as chairman of the Standard chain’s board in March to focus, he said then, on his luxury properties.

A former employee, Sarah, who worked briefly at the front desk of the Chateau Marmont in the early 1990s, is one of the women speaking up; she asked that her last name be withheld, fearing retribution from Mr. Balazs. Her account was confirmed by a friend she told a few years ago, and she provided emails she said were exchanged between her and Mr. Balazs in October addressing the incident.

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Mr. Balazs, second from left, at the Diesel Black Gold fall 2013 fashion show during New York Fashion Week in February 2013.

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Jemal Countess/Getty Images

It was spring 1991, Sarah recalled, and Mr. Balazs was visiting Los Angeles and asked her to dinner in Koreatown. As an employee, Sarah said, she felt obligated to attend. At the time, Mr. Balazs was married to Katie Ford, the daughter of Eileen and Gerard Ford who started Ford Models, and with whom Mr. Balazs has two children. (In July he had a son with Cosima Vesey, a London socialite.) Sarah said they stayed at dinner a short time, before Mr. Balazs suggested they leave.

They went to a mud-wrestling club. There, Sarah said, he grabbed her arm, pinned her against a wall and covered her mouth with his mouth. He put his hand down the front of her pants and pushed his fingers in her vagina.

“I just froze,” she said. They drove home in silence. (Another former employee had a similar story of Mr. Balazs once pinning her against an elevator wall and trying to kiss her. She evaded him, she said.) Months after the incident, Sarah left her job at the Chateau Marmont.

In the email exchange she said she had with Mr. Balazs and provided to The Times, she confronted him about this series of events. He responded to her email warmly, said he didn’t recall what had happened, and offered to speak further. Sarah declined and recently consulted with a lawyer.

Elodie Trouche, one of Mr. Balazs’s personal assistants for two years beginning in 2011, said she did not witness inappropriate behavior at corporate headquarters. “He was professional and polite,” Ms. Trouche said. “It was about doing the job.” She could not speak to people’s experiences at the hotels where Mr. Balazs spent a lot of his time, often staying overnight.

A 26-year-old female media executive also said she had an encounter with Mr. Balazs, in 2013, in which he touched her without consent. The woman is the daughter of a prominent Manhattan couple. The Times agreed not to name her because she had not told her father. Her account was confirmed by a former roommate who said the woman told her about the incident the night it happened.

The woman said she was attending a downtown party during New York Fashion Week in September, as the guest of a male friend. Mr. Balazs was also a guest at the party. The friend knew Mr. Balazs; they said hello. The woman said the hotelier turned to her and greeted her warmly, as if he knew her. She was surprised by his effusiveness. “I was aware of who he was,” the woman said. But she did not recall ever meeting Mr. Balazs. They did not speak the rest of the evening, although she said Mr. Balazs occasionally glanced at her.

Later that night, she said, she walked to the bathroom, past a table, and felt a presence behind her. She said she felt a hand reach between her legs from behind and grab her crotch. “I jumped,” she said. She turned and saw Mr. Balazs. She nervously laughed and said the hotelier laughed as well before walking away.

The woman went home and told her roommate, and now regrets not saying anything to Mr. Balazs at the time.

“I was humiliated,” she said.

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