MONTREAL – The founder of Just For Laughs is selling all his shares in the hugely successful comedy festival amid allegations he sexually harassed or sexually assaulted 10 women.
Just For Laughs spokesman Jean-David Pelletier said Friday that Gilbert Rozon has let it be known he will get rid of everything he owns in the venture.
Pelletier had no other details such as the volume of shares, when they will be sold or if a buyer has already been found.
Rozon, 62, founded Just For Laughs in 1983 and was serving as president when he resigned earlier this week as news of the allegations surfaced.
Le Devoir and Montreal radio station 98.5 FM published allegations from nine women, including some well-known Quebec entertainment personalities such as actress Salome Corbo and TV host Penelope McQuade.
A 10th woman has since accused Rozon of similar conduct.
The alleged incidents occurred over three decades with the most recent coming in 2016, with some of the women claiming they were teenagers at the time.
Montreal police would not confirm various reports that one woman had recently filed a sexual assault complaint against Rozon dating back to 1994 in Paris.
But in the wake of the allegations against Rozon and at least one other well-known Quebec entertainment personality, Montreal police Chief Philippe Pichet said on Twitter the force was “very sensitive” to the current situation and that all complaints would be handled with the utmost professionalism by the force’s sex-assault unit.
He added the tag #moiaussi — the French hashtag equivalent to the #metoo movement on social media that arose in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
On Friday, Pichet announced the force has set up a telephone line people can use to report sexual harassment.
Pichet said there is usually a spike in the number of such calls following high-profile cases such as Rozon’s.
About 30 people specialized in investigating sexual assault will handle the complaints.
Montreal police said they received 43 calls Thursday and another 10 on Friday morning, although Pichet said not all will result in official complaints because some people were only seeking information.
Rozon, meanwhile, also stepped down this week as vice-president of the Montreal Chamber of Commerce and as head of the committee behind Montreal’s 375th-anniversary celebrations.
“I am stepping aside out of respect for the employees and families who work for these organizations as well as all our partners,” he wrote on Facebook.
Rozon ended his statement this way: “To all those I have offended during my life, I am sincerely sorry.”