Keohane quits amid sex and drugs scandal

2012-06-02 18:40

Sports writer’s hedonistic ways may end his career

Celebrity rugby writer Mark ­Keohane resigned suddenly on Friday as spokesperson of South Africa’s Olympic team – hours ­after City Press confronted him with allegations of drug abuse and sexual harassment.

Some of Keohane’s former ­female employees have claimed that he sexually harassed them, suffered from “sad, gross cocaine addiction” and used prostitutes.

Over the past two years, several women have approached the Commission for Conciliation, ­Mediation and Arbitration ­(CCMA), claiming he dismissed them unfairly.

The allegations against him are now being spread among sports writers and written about on Twitter.

On Friday afternoon, three hours ­after City Press confronted him, Keohane replied, saying that he had informed Sascoc chief executive Tubby Reddy that he was resigning as spokesperson for the Olympic team and would no longer be going to the Olympic Games.

He has also resigned as publishing director of Cape Town-based Highbury Safika Media (HSM) with immediate effect.

Keohane was in charge of 30 ­magazines and the leading website, which is visited by 700 000 users from 220 countries each year.
He is also the writer of several books and was SAB’s sports journalist of the year.

Keohane told City Press in 2008 that ­there was an “agenda” against him and that he could not allow ­“disgruntled and malicious former employees, one of them who was retrenched, to undermine the ­credibility and integrity of either HSM or Sascoc”.

Female employees claimed that they were sexually harassed and were victims of his erratic ­behaviour allegedly brought about by drugs. Their allegations include:

» During the opening game of the Super 14 series in 2010 he sexually harassed an employee and allegedly tried to kiss her. Keohane said afterwards that he had only asked her for a date;

» He wrote off his car in November 2009 after he allegedly went on a two-day cocaine binge;

» He apparently tried to “change his ways” after the accident, but a month later he was back on ­cocaine;

» During the South African ­Breweries annual sports awards in Johannesburg in 2009, Keohane and several other sports writers snorted large amounts of cocaine before the function. Afterwards they hired three prostitutes for the night; and

» One woman said in a statement: “I realise that I have been ­like an abused woman. I have been put through hell and back by ­having to accept the blatant illegal use of drugs. I have had to sit back and allow my female staff to be ­sexually harassed, which breaks my heart and makes me ashamed as a boss.”

Another of Keohane’s former employees, who occupied a managerial position, said it was well known that he was often “totally off his face” as a result of his excessive cocaine use. She claims she had an emotional breakdown as a result of his erratic behaviour ­towards her.

Keohane has been a controversial figure since his days as communications manager of the Springbok rugby team under the ill-fated regimes of coaches Harry Viljoen and Rudolph Straeuli.

He resigned after a racial ­incident involving the Springboks’ Geo Cronje and Quinton ­Davids.

He then started and sold it to HSM.

Keohane and HSM were also ­involved in a partnership with ­former Springbok coach Jake ­White – Jake White’s Winning Ways – but the relationship dis­integrated and ended in the Cape Town High Court.

Keohane is widely involved in other HSM business enterprises, including managing Springbok flanker Luke Watson, who was brought back from the United Kingdom to the Eastern Cape to captain the Kings.

Since 2008 HSM and Keohane had a contract with Sascoc for which they managed all the publicity of South Africa’s Olympic team. The contract was said to be worth R12 million.

Keohane said he engaged ­lawyers to deal with the allegations. “I have nothing to answer for in relation to the said allegations of former employees.”

Reddy said the contract was between Sascoc and HSM and not with Keohane as such, and that HSM had nominated Keohane as spokesperson.

Reddy said that if the allegations against Keohane were true, “such behaviour is certainly not in terms of Sascoc’s image, nor that of any of its athletes”.

HSM CEO Kevin ­Ferguson said Keohane was a ­valued and productive member of staff, to which his numerous awards attest. He said that the company regarded the allegations as “extremely unfortunate” and that there was clearly an opportunistic element to them.

Ferguson said he could not ­comment on allegations of cocaine abuse, but said a complaint of ­sexual harassment was made against Keohane two years ago. He was asked to take leave before it was investigated and the issue was resolved.

“It is strange that they are ­surfacing now, more than two ­years later,” Ferguson said.

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