However, after being one of the industry's most respected moguls, that has changed due to recent controversies. Over the years, reports about Simmons’ inappropriate behavior have come to light. Numerous women came forward in a report by The New York Times in 2017 to tell the stories of their encounters with Simmons, which they say occurred between 1988 and 2014.
The record executive has since denied the reports, stating, "I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core and all of my relations have been consensual.”
The hip-hop icon has not only dealt with legal troubles in the public eye, but things recently took a turn with his family as well. On Father's Day, Simmons entered a feud on Instagram regarding his two daughters, Ming Lee Simmons and Aiko Lee Simmons, and their mother and his ex-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons.
The argument resulted in his family exposing his supposedly erratic behavior, saying he cut off financial support from his children, and even accusing their mother of theft. Here is everything about Russell Simmons' scandals, sexual assault allegations, and family drama.
Simmons Divorces Kimora Lee
Simmons and Lee met in November 1992 when she was modeling in New York Fashion Week. During the time, Kimora was a 17-year-old high school sophomore while he was 35.
The high-profile duo walked down the aisle in 1998 in St. Barts. They welcomed two daughters: Ming Lee Simmons and Aiko Lee Simmons and became a power couple in fashion and media.
In 2006 Russell and Kimora announced their split after months of separation. "Kimora and I will remain committed parents and caring friends with great love and admiration for each other. We will also continue to work side by side on a daily basis as partners in all of our businesses," the Def Jam co-founder stated, per People.
Following their divorce, the former pair had a seemingly great relationship as co-parents to their two children until recently.
Date: November 2017
Simmons was accused of sexual misconduct in a report by The Los Angeles Times published in November 2017 amid the Me Too movement, which was largely inspired by the Harvey Weinstein case. The report said he allegedly sexually assaulted model Keri Claussen Khalighi in 1991, when she was just 17, in front of Hollywood director Brett Ratner.
The model said Simmons was showing her a music video at his apartment when he began taking her clothes off, forced her to perform oral sex, and then raped her while Ratner watched. "I looked over at Brett and said 'help me' and I'll never forget the look on his face," she told the newspaper. "In that moment, the realization fell on me that they were in it together."
Simmons shared a statement following the report, saying the encounter with the model was "completely consensual and with Keri's full participation."
Date: November 2017
In 2017, Terry Crews came forward saying that a Hollywood agent groped him at an industry event. The actor later appeared on Good Morning America and identified the man to be an agent from WME named Adam Venit, who was then put on leave.
Following the story about Simmons coming to light, Crews shared an email from the hip-hop mogul asking the actor to give the agent "a pass" and to ask for him to be reinstated at the company. Crews shared a screenshot of the alleged email and responded: "Dear @UncleRUSH NO ONE GETS A PASS."
More women accuse Simmons of sexual misconduct
Date: December 2017
Within the past three decades, Russell Simmons has been accused of sexual assault, harassment, and rape over a dozen times.
As he pioneered to the top of the hip-hop industry in the '80s, the multi-millionaire was accused of assaulting Sherri Hines, a member of the rap group Mercedes Ladies. In an interview on NBC's Megyn Kelly Today, Hines said, "I was trying to maneuver and get out of it. He just held me down. Next thing I know, my pants was down and he was having his way."
"I felt embarrassed. I felt used, worthless. The way I felt at the time was...I can't believe this man just violated me like I was nothing," she added.
From 1988 to 2014 Simmon was accused of assaulting and raping multiple women, including Def Jam executive Drew Dixon. In 2017 The New York Times ran a report on Simmons' predatory behavior, as three women, including Dixon, came forth naming Simmons as a rapist. In addition, four other victims claimed Simmons sexually assaulted them.
The newspaper noted that the woman felt more inspired to come forth with the allegations after witnessing Harvey Weinstein's victim stories, which resulted in putting him behind bars.
Simmons denied the allegations
Date: December 2017
Simmons denied all allegations in a statement. "I vehemently deny all these allegations. These horrific accusations have shocked me to my core, and all of my relations have been consensual. I have enormous respect for the women's movement worldwide and their struggle for respect, dignity, equality, and power," he said.
Since over a dozen women came forth, one being screenwriter Jenny Lumet, Simmons announced that he was stepping down from his companies. "I have re-dedicated myself to spiritual learning, healing, and working on behalf of the communities to which I have devoted my life," he stated.
"I have accepted that I can and should get dirt on my sleeves if it means witnessing the birth of a new consciousness about women."
He added, "What I will not accept is responsibility for what I have not done. I have conducted my life with a message of peace and love. Although I have been candid about how I have lived in books and interviews detailing my flaws, I will relentlessly fight against any untruthful character assassination that paints me as a man of violence."
Simmons was sued for $5 million over alleged assault
Date: January 2018
In 2018 Simmons was sued for $5 million by Jennifer Jarosik, who accused him of rape. The aspiring documentary producer filed a lawsuitin 2018 demanding $5 million from the hip-hop mogul, TMZ reported. In the suit, she claims Simmons raped her at his Los Angeles home in 2016 after they met in New York City a decade before the incident, which she says took place in 2016.
Jarosik's lawsuit says Simmons invited her to his house and asked her to have sex. When Jarosik rejected his advances, she says he became aggressive and pushed her onto his bed. "Defendant pounced on her while she was still in shock and fear, and proceeded to rape her," the lawsuit reads.
Following the incident, Jarosik said she felt "sick, sore, lame, disabled and disordered, both internally and externally and suffered from extreme emotional distress" and was seeking $5 million in punitive damages and unspecified actual damages. TMZ reported that Simmons said he had a consensual relationship with Jarosik for 10 years and that "after hearing that women were able to recover money for real abuse by sexual predators, did Ms. Jarosik decided to see if she could extract large amounts of money." The lawsuit was later dismissed.
Simmons heads to Bali
Date: February 2018
As the sexual assault claims began to pile up, the Phat Farm owner began spending time in Bali. Per Page Six, an unnamed accuser told The Blast that he "fled to Indonesia, which has no extradition treaty…in an apparent attempt to protect himself. Mr. Simmons has been in and out of the United States six times in the last year and will be back for his child's graduation."
Simmons’ team denied the claims, telling the outlet: “Mr. Simmons has been in and out of the United States six times in the last year and will be back for his child’s graduation.”
Since then Simmons has been seen around Bali as he continues to practice yoga, referring to himself as a "Christian Yogi." Law enforcement is still investigating the allegations made against Russell.
On the Record documentary drops
Date: January 2020
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering released the documentary On the Record in 2020 at The Sundance Film Festival, and was later acquired and released by HBO Max (now Max) in May of that year. It became another post-Me Too film that focused on sexual assault allegations against powerful men in Hollywood. The film examined the allegations against Simmons and it features interviews with some of his accusers including Sil Lai Abrams, Sherri Hines, Jenny Lumet, and Alexia Norton Jones. Oprah Winfrey was initially signed on as executive producer in the documentary but stepped away saying she the and the filmmakers were "not aligned in that creative vision."
Simmons sues his ex-wife, Kimora
In 2021 Simmons filed a lawsuit against Kimora for allegedly stealing money from their stocks for their energy drink company, Celsius. The pair and Kimora's husband, Tim Leissner, share ownership.
In 2018 Leissner was involved in a laundering scheme that led to his arrest. He pleaded guilty to stealing nearly $1 billion from a Malaysian wealth fund. He was able to avoid jail time by paying $44 million in the process.
In documents obtained by ET, Simmons’ filing states, "Knowing full well that Defendant Leissner would need tens of millions of dollars to avoid jail time, stay out on bail, and forfeit monies for victim compensation, Defendants engaged in this blatant fraud to achieve that nefarious and unlawful goal."
Since then Kimora has denied the allegations. Her team issued a public statement on her behalf. "Kimora and her children are shocked by the extortive harassment coming from her ex-husband, Russell Simmons, who has decided to sue her for shares and dividends of Celsius stock in which Kimora and Tim Leissner invested millions of dollars. This is an ill-advised attempt by Russell to use the legal system to access funds he is in no way entitled to, and which his own legal team confirms Russell did not pay for."
Simmons has public dispute with his children
Date: June 2023
The Simmons family drama took social media for a whirlwind on Father's Day 2023. On the celebratory date, Ming posted a throwback photo of her and her mother walking the red carpet, writing, "Happy Fathers Day @kimoraleesimmons.”
Ming not acknowledging Simmons on the holiday seemed to have triggered the Def Jam executive, and it started the family drama the whole world got to witness.
Simmon seemingly addressed the matter by posting a cryptic message, stating, "Stop telling fathers they should have fought harder to see their children and start asking mothers why he had to fight at all." Followed by a repost, saying, "The father you have is the perfect father for the evolution of your soul and the lessons that you needed to learn in this lifetime."
Kimora Lee speaks out
Date: June 2023
Kimora hopped on an Instagram Live to talk about her ex-husband and the “threats” he had made toward their daughters. In the lengthy video, Kimora got emotional as she stated she and her girls have suffered abuse by Simmons for years. "Don't attack my kids; don't have anything to say about what goes on in this house," she said.
"Because if you want to, we can all do that. Like I said, I like receipts. I have receipts. I've been collecting them. I've been baking a cake. So if you want it, just let me know," Kimora said.
She also said that she's the primary caretaker for the family, as she said that he has cut his children off financially.
Simmons’ daughters share texts from their dad
Date: June 2023
As for receipts, Aiko chimed on the social media platform, sharing her side of the story. She posted a recording of Simmons frantically yelling as they were on FaceTime. The video was on mute, not revealing what he was saying. "This is all he does when we speak," she captioned the snippet.
"This is not someone who will accept help. This is just one screen recording. Sorry, I don't always remember to press 'record' when he calls my friends, my boyfriend, anyone, to get a chance to threaten and curse and go crazy."
The 20-year-old also exposed text messages that were allegedly between her and her estranged father, where she states, "I am out here praying for you and hoping everything is going well. And you call my mother a piece of sh*t."
She shared a text from him in which he reportedly wrote: "Neutral my ass. I don't even appear in your media, and your mother has stolen my money and the love from my kids as she promised. She is, she actually is."
Aiko replied, "You will never see again. I'll never speak to you until you DIE. She did not steal it. You lost it."
Aiko continued to shed light on the situation as she spoke at length about what her family has experienced with her father. "He has threatened and bullied my sister, my grandma; he has harassed my grandma in the middle of the night in poor health, sent a man to my sister’s apartment at 2 a.m. to scare her," Aiko said.
"He lashes out at ANYONE who does not say, 'oh Russell, everything is fine'. Well it's not fine. If 'I never get a fashion job again' like he threatens, I'll be a lawyer I guess and work in criminal justice. Sure, I love my job, but if he takes it away from me I won't die. You don't threaten my sister and grandma and mother and say 'who's gonna believe you I'm Russell Simmons nobody thinks I'm crazy' well he is."
She said that she and her family believe he is suffering from a mental illness or health condition. "Some of us do think he's mentally ill or experiencing something like dementia. He really acts like he hates and does not know his children frequently," she wrote as a caption over top of the picture featuring her tearful face in the background.
"Prior to his media issues, he was really the best dad ever and a great co-parent. He and my mom were best friends. We all defended him against anything," she said. "Then he suddenly turned on ANYONE who would let him lash out. It's really just a terrifying change to watch."
Later that afternoon, Kimora returned to social media sharing more about the situation as she posted multiple slides of details regarding her ex-husband's harmful doings. "I'm so sorry to have to do this. But this man has been threatening my kids' lives. I'm hearing so much more now," she penned. "We won't be bullied, threatened, or afraid. Who gaf?!"
She continued emphasizing that Russell's "abusive" behavior has gotten out of hand, saying, "No one should live like this. No one's child. This is abuse. Not ok. The threats. Not ok. The fear mongering. Not ok. leave my kids alone. ... The same abusive ish."
"This is how you maneuver [sic] with the world and women all around you. Your threats and lies and intimidation maneuvers and tactics are sad. Stop it please. Your own flesh and blood? Enough is enough."
She continued addressing Russell as she discussed his false promise to support their daughter's future. "You said aoki (and ming) would never work again and that you'd RUIN HER (and them)??! Really? This is how you learn–if ppl don't mess with you–then they don't mess with you. No love lost."
"For those of you who know and send your love and support-thank you we love you," she signed off.
Simmons apologized to his kids
Date: June 203
Later on in the day, Simmons apologized to his children on the social media platform. "God is testing you a little bit, it's ok, be strong. They are called growing pains...as you know, we grow through adversity and struggle," he captioned a photo of the duo. He suggested his kids to "let go" and be "at ease" while advising that "God is driving" and still working on them.
"DEEPLY sorry for being frustrated and yelling, but know this...there are no conditions. For sure i love you guys more than i love myself," he concluded.
Neither of his children has publicly acknowledged his apology.