CBS Corp. is reportedly preparing to announce the departure of chief executive officer Les Moonves as the media mogul faces a fresh round of allegations of sexual harassment.
Six additional women have come forward to accuse Moonves of harassment or assault, with claims stretching back decades, in a new report by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker. This follows on from the previous allegations from six other women regarding Moonves during his CBS tenure.
The latest reported incidents occurred in the 1980s and early 2000s and include claims that the executive forced women to perform oral sex on him, exposed himself, and used intimidation and physical violence. One of the women, veteran TV exec Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, filed a complaint late last year with the Los Angeles Police Department. The publication reports that their law enforcement sources found her “allegations credible and consistent” but prosecutors declined to pursue charges because the statute of limitations had expired.
The revelations add pressure to exit talks that were already underway at the network with the announcement of his exit expected imminently. It’s unclear what financial impact they will have, but these fresh allegations could make a dent in Moonves’ settlement package which was originally expected to total more than $US100 million.
Moonves, in a statement to the New Yorker, acknowledged three of the encounters while maintaining that they were consensual. Moonves is expected to be succeeded as CEO by Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello temporarily as the board would then begin a search for a full-time replacement.
CBS and controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc., who has been battling for board control with Moonves, didn’t have immediate comments on Sunday. As part of separate negotiations, CBS would end efforts to dilute the Redstone family’s 80% voting stake through National Amusements Inc. and potentially dismiss board members who staged an attempted coup. In exchange, National Amusements would agree to honor the independence of a new board and vow it won’t mount a new effort to merge CBS with Viacom Inc. for at least 18 months.
As the story continues to unfold, new wrinkles are cropping up. A new report at The Huffington Post details a source claiming Moonves was obsessed for years with ruining Janet Jackson’s career following the infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction because “Jackson, in his mind, was not sufficiently repentant.”
Update: That was fast. Only three hours after the publication of the original New Yorker story and Moonves is now officially out as chairman and CEO of CBS. As part of the settlement, he and CBS are both donating $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement.
The charitable donations have been deducted from any severance benefits Moonves would receive, pending the outcome of the ongoing investigation into alleged misconduct. National Amusements will appoint six new independent directors to the CBS board, including former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons, Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, former Barclays bank vice chairman Barbara Byrne, former Fox & Sony Pictures exec Strauss Zelnick, SyPartners CEO Susan Schuman, and attorney Candace Beinecke.
They join the following independent directors who remain: Bruce Gordon, William Cohen, Gary Countryman, Linda Griego and Martha Minow.