March 20, 2015 / 8:35 PM / 5 years ago

Silicon Valley VC denies calling Kleiner partner 'sex addict'

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner and Silicon Valley socialite Juliet de Baubigny took the stand Friday in a gender discrimination case against the venture firm and said she never referred to a male partner in the suit as a “sex addict.”

Ellen Pao walks to a courtroom in San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The testimony comes in week four of the trial, which pits a former Kleiner partner, Ellen Pao, against the storied venture-capital firm. The lawsuit, which Pao filed in 2012, has helped spark a broad, ongoing discussion about sexism in Silicon Valley.

Pao, now interim chief executive at social-news service Reddit, claims her standing at Kleiner crumbled after she ended a brief affair with Ajit Nazre, another partner who later left the firm. Her career was sidelined after he and Kleiner started retaliating against her, her lawyers have argued.

In earlier testimony, Pao had testified de Baubigny told her that Nazre, whom another female Kleiner partner has said knocked at her hotel room wearing a bathrobe, was a sex addict.

“That is completely ridiculous,” said de Baubigny, who handles recruitment and human resources, and keeps a high profile around Silicon Valley and beyond.

Last year, she attended Vanity Fair’s Oscar party as the date of News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch. She has also contributed to Goop, the blog created by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, providing tips on time management, makeup and shopping for clothes and gifts.

That post led to firm-wide ribbing by Randy Komisar, another Kleiner partner, de Baubigny said. “It mortified me,” she said, noting that Komisar focused on details such as hair advice.

But De Baubigny told jurors she had never witnessed gender discrimination at the firm, and that gender issues did not affect decisions around Pao.

She painted a picture of Pao as a chronic denigrator of colleagues, ranging from top partner John Doerr (not allowing Pao “to shine”) to her administrative assistant (“erratic in her support.”)

Judge Harold Kahn asked de Baubigny, who speaks with a distinct British accent, how she ended up with a French name, and then followed up on fighting between the English and French.

“Ex-husband,” de Baubigny said, referring to Andre de Baubigny, an Bay Area investor. And then, to laughter in the court, she answered his second question. “They still are.”

Closing arguments for the trial, which started Feb. 24, are expected next week.

Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Christian Plumb

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