The top executive since 2006 and a major figure at CBS Corp for over two decades, Leslie Moonves, stepped down on Sunday surrounded by a fresh wave of allegations against him of harassment and sexual assault.
The company in its statement concurring with the announcement of a deal ending litigation against majority National Amusements Inc for control of CBS and CBS shareholder Shari Redstone confirmed the CEO and president’s departure.
As per the announcements, Chief Operating Officer Joe Ianniello will take over the seat as a provisional CEO while the board hunts for a replacement. The decisions will end years of ambiguities concerning the future of CBS and will possibly open the door of opportunities to future deals.
The revelation came following the accusation by six more women in a report broadcasted on Sunday in the New Yorker magazine. The freshly unveiled episodes, which the women reported to have occurred between the 1980s and early 2000s, include accusations of Moonves baring himself, forced sex, physical intimidation, and violence.
Moonves who once turned CBS from aging radio and TV broadcaster into an efficacious provider of shows to digital platforms was anticipated to reap an estimated $100 million in severance pay.
But unfortunately, Moonves will end with nothing due to the pending investigation into the accusations of violence against women carried by law firms appointed by an autonomous committee of the CBS board of directors.
Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million of Moonves’ termination pay to organizations favoring the #MeToo movement.
Redstone stated, “Today’s resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS – and transforming it for the future. We are confident in Joe’s ability to serve as acting CEO and delighted to welcome our new directors, who bring valuable and diverse expertise and a strong commitment to corporate governance.”
In the former court filings, NAI had abdicated its support for a contract prior to it was prosecuted by CBS in May for control of the company. The agreement does not prevent other parties from bringing other potential transactions to the board or recommending a merger, said one source.
The company further added to its statement that one National Amusement-affiliated director and five current independent directors have stepped down from the board of directors and six new directors have been designated.
Three of the new board members are women, each one of them a pioneer in their respective areas of function, bringing the total to 6 on the 13-member board.
They are Susan Schuman, CEO of SYPartners, a business consultancy, Candace Beinecke, a senior partner at international law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and Barbara Byrne, a retired vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays. The 3 new board members have replaced Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive, Brian Goldner, CEO of Hasbro, and Richard Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner. The company announced its annual shareholder’s meeting before November 30.
News of a possible big disbursement to Moonves drew flames from advocacy groups.
A campaign against sexual misconduct at the workplace, Time’s Up, said in a statement, “CBS, as you sit in a room debating next steps to rectify the damage done, remember that the world is watching. We will accept nothing less than full transparency of the investigation’s findings, a commitment to real change across all levels of CBS management and no reward for Les Moonves.”
The company in its defense said that it takes such allegations gravely. The details concerning Moonves agreement and litigation settlement will be divulged in a forthcoming regulatory filing.
The media company’s board said in a statement, “The CBS Board of Directors is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of the allegations, and that investigation is actively underway.”