Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons steps down after sex assault accusations

Russell Simmons said Thursday he was quitting his business empire after fresh allegations of sexual abuse.

The 60-year-old US music producer, entrepreneur and co-founder of hip-hop label Def Jam Recordings disputed the latest claim against him, but said he viewed the mounting public spotlight on sexual misconduct to be "a time of great transition".

"The voices of the voiceless, those who have been hurt or shamed, deserve and need to be heard," Simmons said in a statement. "As the corridors of power inevitably make way for a new generation, I don't want to be a distraction so I am removing myself from the businesses that I founded."

The announcement came after screenwriter Jenny Lumet said Simmons sexually assaulted her in 1991 when she was 24 and he was a decade older.

Writing in The Hollywood Reporter, she said Simmons forced her into his New York apartment, with his driver refusing her pleas to be taken to her own home, and had sex with her even though she said no.

Simmons said he remembered the night differently but acknowledged "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 and humbly apologise," he said.

Simmons earlier denied accusations by model Keri Claussen Khalighi that he assaulted her in 1991 when she was 17.

HBO said on Thursday it had removed Simmons' name and involvement in its new series All Def Comedy, but will be airing it as planned. It said it did not want to deprive upcoming comedians the chance to showcase their talents. - AFP/REUTERS