CBS is close to parting ways with embattled CEO Les Moonves, but the high-powered executive is negotiating his exit package which could exceed $100 million after he was accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year, according to Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino.
COO Joe Ianniello is expected to be named the interim CEO, but CBS’ board has consulted with an executive search firm to help find a long-term replacement for Moonves, Gasparino reported. CBS’ controlling shareholder, Sumner and Shari Redstone's National Amusements Inc., has been engaged in a heated battle for corporate control and Moonves’ exit was part of recent talks.
“It looks like this guy is on the way out. Imminently,” Gasparino said Thursday.
“It looks like this guy is on the way out. Imminently."
CBS did not immediately respond to multiple requests for confirmation or comment.
Moonves was the subject of an expose by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ronan Farrow in July that featured six women accusing the CBS honcho of sexual harassment. In addition, more than two dozen company employees, past and present, detailed episodes involving harassment, gender discrimination or retaliation at the network between the 1980s and the 2000s.
In Farrow's report, actress Illeana Douglas accused Moonves of luring her to a hotel to talk business, only to make sexual advances and forcibly kiss her. Dinah Kirgo shared a similar story, in which Moonves is said to have feigned interest in a business meeting, only to pursue a dinner with her alone. Kirgo said she believed that rejecting the CBS CEO’s advances had hurt her career.
CBS announced an independent investigation led by influential attorneys Nancy Kestenbaum of Covington & Burling, and Mary Jo White of Debevoise & Plimpton. Moonves admitted to mistakes but denied using his powerful position as network chief for wrongdoing.
Shortly after the Farrow report was published, Moonves touted CBS’ increased revenue and growth but ignored the allegations on a corporate earnings call with investors.
His wife, "The Talk" host Julie Chen, issued a statement on Twitter after the report defending her husband.
"I have known my husband, Leslie Moonves, since the late ‘90s, and I have been married to him for almost 14 years...Leslie is a good man and a loving father, devoted husband and inspiring corporate leader. He has always been a kind, decent and moral human being. I fully support my husband and stand behind him and his statement."
The media and entertainment industries have been rocked by sexual misconduct allegations since the #MeToo movement began in 2017.
Disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, former NBC News star Matt Lauer and actor Kevin Spacey are among the biggest names to see their careers derailed after they were accused of sexual misconduct.
As rumors of an exit spread, many users took to Twitter to express disgust that Moonves could walk away with so much cash. “If Les Moonves allegations isn't a classic example of having your cake and eating it too, what is? Harasses and still gets paid out? This stuff is where #MeToo should focus,” one user chimed in. However, reporter Peter Kafla wrote, “You might think $100 million is a lot of money. For Les Moonves it’s a punishment.”
Moonves joined CBS in 1995 and became CEO following the split from Viacom in 2006. His contract as CBS’ CEO was extended in 2014 through 2019 after which he was slated to remain in an advisory role for an additional five years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Moonves earned $69.6 million in 2016.
Fox News’ Leora Arnowitz contributed to this report.