Leslie Moonves is exiting as chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation, with COO Joseph Ianniello tapped as president and acting CEO.
The move comes amid allegations of sexual harassment against the long-time CBS chief, as well as a legal battle with CBS Corporation’s majority shareholder, National Amusements. Announcing Moonves’ departure, CBS Corporation also said that it had settled its dispute with National Amusements.
Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace. The donation has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves following an ongoing independent investigation into allegations against him. Moonves will not receive any severance benefits at this time.
National Amusements has confirmed that it has no plans to propose a merger of CBS and Viacom and it will make no such proposal for at least two years after the date of the settlement.
“CBS is an organization of talented and dedicated people who have created one of the most successful media companies in the world,” said Vice Chair Shari Redstone said. “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.”
Lead Independent Director Bruce Gordon said, “We thank Les for his 24 years of service. 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.”
Moonves commented, “For the past 24 years it has been an incredible privilege to lead CBS’s renaissance and transformation into a leading global media company. The best part of this journey has been working alongside the dedicated and talented people in this company. Together, we built CBS into a destination where the best in the business come to work and succeed.
“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.”