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Producer and business mogul Russell Simmons said Thursday he is stepping down from his companies in the wake of two accusations of sexual misconduct.
Simmons, who co-founded the music label Def Jam Recordings in 1984, eventually spinning it into a larger entertainment and production empire, said in a statement that he doesn't want "to be a distraction." While he didn't specify all of his businesses — ranging from media to wellness brands — by name, he added that they will be run by "a new and diverse generation of extraordinary executives who are moving the culture and consciousness forward."
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His decision was announced as a second woman accused him of sexual misconduct that she says took place more than two decades ago in New York.
Former actress Jenny Lumet recounted in a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday how Simmons wooed her over a period of time and eventually forced her into a sexual encounter when she was 24. Simmons was producing music and movies at the time, and Lumet said they met socially and knew mutual people in the industry.
"I have built a life in the past 25 years, and a reputation in my industry. I need no one to have this visualization of me. I will, like the others, lose work because of this," wrote Lumet, who is the daughter of the director Sidney Lumet and the granddaughter of singer Lena Horne.
"There is so much guilt, and so much shame," she added. She says she was prompted to go public following the accusations against ex-Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Lumet, now 50 and a screenwriter for the 2008 film "Rachel Getting Married," described being given a ride in Simmons' car and instead of taking her home, having his driver bring her to his apartment.
She felt like she had no choice but to go with him, she said, and he led her to the bedroom where he "penetrated" her and was "frustrated" over his sexual performance.
"I remember being afraid that you would deem that my fault and become violent. I did not know if you were angry, but I was afraid that you were," Lumet wrote. "I desperately wanted to keep the situation from escalating. I wanted you to feel that I was not going to be difficult."
Eventually, Lumet said, she left, although she said she continued to run into Simmons over the years in social settings.
In his response Thursday, Simmons, 60, said that her recollections of that night are "very different from mine" although "it is now clear to me that her feelings of fear and intimidation are real. While I have never been violent, I have been thoughtless and insensitive in some of my relationships over many decades and I sincerely apologize."
Lumet's account comes after an initial accusation reported in The Los Angeles Times this month in which model Keri Claussen Khalighi said he made aggressive sexual advances on her in 1991 when she was 17 and coerced her to have oral sex and penetrated her in a shower without her consent.
Khalighi told Megyn Kelly on "Today" last week that she was "coming out now because I really, really think this is such an important empowerment revolution."
Simmons acknowledged spending two days and a night with Khalighi in 1991 in his apartment and other "public places," including a nightclub.
"Much of the time we were in the presence of other acquaintances," Simmons said. "I'm deeply saddened and truly shocked to learn of Keri's assertions as to what happened over the course of that weekend."
During an extensive career, Simmons has made a name for himself creating the hip-hop clothing line Phat Farm, and in more recent years, co-founding the RushCard, a prepaid debit card, and launching All Def Digital, which produces videos geared toward urban youth culture.
Simmons has also prided himself as a vegan who has embraced a lifestyle of yoga and cryotherapy. He said he will convert his studio where he practices yoga into a not-for-profit center of learning and healing.
"I will step aside and commit myself to continuing my personal growth, spiritual learning and above all," he said, "to listening."