UPDATED MONDAY, SEPT. 10, 9:54 A.M. EST
Les Moonves, CEO of U.S. broadcast network CBS, is stepping down from his post, following the publication of a second New Yorker article featuring numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
The piece, published Sunday morning (September 9), is, like its predecessor from earlier this summer, written by Ronan Farrow, and has six more women going on the record to accuse Moonves of various instances of misconduct, including a situation that resulted in a criminal investigation earlier this year.
Moonves – who was reportedly negotiating his exit after fallout from both the first New Yorker piece and a bitter corporate control battle for the network with CBS’ controlling shareholder and the board’s vice chair, Shari Redstone – is exiting immediately, with COO Joseph Ianniello serving as president and acting CEO as a search for a replacement is undertaken. The chairman role will also remain open, pending the results of the search for a permanent CEO.
In addition, Moonves and CBS will donate US$20 million to one or more organizations supporting the #MeToo movement. The network says that the donation will be deducted from any severance benefits that may be due to Moonves following the results of an independent investigation into the allegations “and subsequent Board evaluation.” According to the CBS statement, Moonves will not receive any additional severance benefits at this time, beyond fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits, and “any payments to be made in the future will depend upon the results of the independent investigation and subsequent Board evaluation.”
Moonves issued a statement to The New Yorker regarding the most recent published allegations, which include physical coercion in a number of instances and date between the 1980s and the early 2000s. In the statement he said that he had “consensual relations” with three of the women mentioned in the piece before he was with CBS, while not specifying which ones, and denied ever using his position to “hinder the advancement or careers of women.”
He echoed his statement to the New Yorker in a subsequent statement issued after his departure from CBS was confirmed, saying: “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am. Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS.
“I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees,” he added.
Meanwhile, the network has also reached a settlement with Redstone and controlling stakeholders National Amusements Incorporated that will see the appointment of six new independent directors to its board. The new board will be comprised of 11 independent directors and 2 NAI-affiliated directors. As well, discussions of merger proposals with Viacom will be held back for at least two years following the settlement.
The six new independent Board members are: Candace Beinecke, Barbara Byrne, Brian Goldner, Richard D. Parsons, Susan Schuman and Strauss Zelnick. The following independent directors will remain on the board in addition to lead independent director Bruce Gordon: William Cohen, Gary Countryman, Linda Griego and Martha Minow. On behalf of NAI, in addition to Redstone, Robert Klieger remains on the board.
“CBS is an organization of talented and dedicated people who have created one of the most successful media companies in the world,” said Redstone in a statement, regarding the settlement and end to the pending litigation between CBS and NAI. “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.”
“We thank Les for his 24 years of service,” added Gordon. “Among his achievements, he established a strong management team, giving us great confidence as we accelerate our succession plans and provide continuity of leadership. This agreement maintains an independent Board that is charged with determining the best course for the future of CBS on behalf of all shareholders.”