Webster PR Re-brands, Kirt Webster Departs Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations
Despite reports that Webster PR had shut down effective immediately (Nov. 1) following sexual misconduct allegations made against its president and CEO, Kirt Webster, a new statement reveals the company will be re-branded and continue operating, and that Webster himself will be taking time away from the organization.
Around noon ET, the Webster PR website was wiped; at that time, in place of the site, a landing page explained, "As of November 1, 2017, Webster Public Relations is no longer in business." Client inquiries were being directed to Jeremy Westby, one of Webster PR's employees.
However, around 2PM ET, the Webster PR website was back online. Around 3PM ET, media members received a statement explaining that the earlier statement was "mistakenly posted."
"Webster Public Relations will continue operating -- but under the name Westby Public Relations -- while Kirt Webster takes some time away from the business to focus on combating the egregious and untrue allegations made against him," the statement reads. "The company's work on behalf of its clients will continue under the leadership of Jeremy Westby, Kirt's longstanding colleague."
Webster PR's re-branding and Webster's departure come than 24 hours after ex-country artist Austin Rick accused Webster, in a story published by the Nashville Scene, of sexually molesting and abusing him, paying Rick to keep quiet and threatening to sabotage Rick's career if he didn't in the late 2000s. The two met through producer Brett Beavers shortly after Rick moved to Nashville in 2008, the former singer tells the Scene, and Rick recounts three separate alleged incidents, which took place over the course of a year, during which he says Webster made sexual advances toward him.
In a statement via a spokesperson, Webster denies Rick's claims, noting that Webster, "as a single adult ... has had multiple relationships over the course of his professional life, all of which have been consensual ... includ[ing] a brief relationship with Mr. Rick." However, Nashville's WSMV-TV reports that other individuals -- former Webster PR employees -- have spoken with them and claim that Webster behaved similarly during their tenures with the company. Additionally, following the Scene's original story on Rick, another artist and a number of former Webster PR staff members have come forward with their own allegations.
In the wake of the allegations against Webster, at least one employee, Scott Adkins, has resigned from the company. Adkins, formerly Webster PR's vice president of publicity, left effective immediately and has announced that he is launching his own PR firm. Additionally, a number of the newly re-named Westby PR's clients have chosen to sever ties with the company.
Although Rick cannot press criminal charges due to a statute of limitations, others who have made allegations could, and he could still file a civil lawsuit.