CBS CEO Moonves resigns amid new allegations of sexual misconduct

 Leslie Moonves, the top executive at CBS Corp (CBS.N) since 2006 and a major figure at the broadcast network and media company for more than two decades, resigned on Sunday amid a new wave of allegations against him of sexual assault and harassment.
FILE PHOTO: Leslie Moonves, Chairman and CEO, CBS Corporation, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo
His departure as chairman, CEO and president was confirmed by the company in a statement coinciding with its announcement of a deal to end litigation against majority CBS shareholder Shari Redstone and National Amusements Inc for control of CBS.
Chief Operating Officer Joe Ianiello will take over as interim CEO as the board searches for a replacement, according to the announcement. The settlements end years of uncertainty over the future of CBS and could potentially open the door to future deals.
The announcement came after six more women accused Moonves of sexual assault and harassment in a report published on Sunday in the New Yorker magazine. The newly disclosed incidents, which the women said occurred between the 1980s and early 2000s, included claims of forced sex, Moonves exposing himself and his alleged use of physical violence and intimidation.
“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,” Moonves said in a statement on Sunday.
Moonves, who turned CBS from an aging radio and TV broadcaster into a successful provider of shows to digital platforms, was expected to reap an estimated $100 million in severance. But Moonves, 68, could end up with nothing pending an investigation into the allegations of violence against women conducted by law firms hired by an independent committee of the CBS board of directors.
CBS said it and Moonves will donate $20 million (15 million pounds) of Moonves’ severance to organizations supporting the #MeToo movement.
“Today’s resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS - and transforming it for the future,” Redstone said in a statement. “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.”
National Amusements agreed to avoid pressing for a merger of CBS and Viacom, which is also controlled by National Amusements, for at least two years.
In earlier court filings, NAI had dropped support for a deal before it was sued in May by CBS for control of the company. The settlement does not preclude other parties from suggesting a merger or bringing other potential transactions to the board, one source said.
Five current independent directors and one National Amusements-affiliated director have stepped down from the board of directors and six new directors have been elected, the company said.
Three of the new board members are women, each considered a trailblazer in their respective fields, bringing the total to six on the 13-member board. They are: Candace Beinecke, a senior partner at international law firm Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Barbara Byrne, a retired vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays, and Susan Schuman, CEO of SYPartners, a business consultancy.
Also new to the board are: Richard Parsons, former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner; Brian Goldner, CEO of Hasbro; and Strauss Zelnick, CEO of Take-Two Interactive (TTWO.O).
CBS said the board will schedule its annual shareholders meeting no later than Nov. 30.
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‘DAMAGE DONE’

Reports of a potential big payout to Moonves drew fire from advocacy groups.
“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,” Time’s Up, a campaign against workplace sexual misconduct, said in a statement.
CBS said details of the litigation settlement and the Moonves agreement will be disclosed in an upcoming regulatory filing.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves acknowledged three of the newly described encounters, but said they were consensual.
“The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” Moonves told the New Yorker. “What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women.”
CBS said on Sunday it takes such allegations very seriously.
“The CBS Board of Directors is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of the allegations, and that investigation is actively underway,” the media company’s board said in a statement.
 The #MeToo movement fighting sexual misconduct had already claimed one of Hollywood’s top movie moguls in Harvey Weinstein. Now it has done the same for Leslie Moonves, one of the television industry’s most powerful executives.
The CBS Corp. announced its chairman’s exit Sunday night, hours after The New Yorker magazine posted a story with a second round of ugly accusations against Moonves. A total of 12 women have alleged mistreatment, including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted him. Moonves denied the charges in a pair of statements, although he said he had consensual relations with three of the women.
CBS said $20 million will be donated to one or more organizations that support #MeToo and workplace equality for women. That sum will be deducted from any severance due Moonves, a figure that won’t be determined until an outside investigation led by a pair of law firms is finished.
The network’s chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will take over Moonves’ duties as president and CEO until its board of directors can find a permanent replacement, CBS said.
It has been nearly a year since Pulitzer Prize-winning articles by The New York Times and the New Yorker exposed a pattern of misconduct by Weinstein, who now faces sex crime charges in New York. Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose and Kevin Spacey are among other figures that lost jobs after men and women came forward with their own stories, often on social media with the hashtag MeToo, about sexually inappropriate behavior by powerful men.
Moonves ruled first the programming, then the full network and other corporate entities such as Showtime for two decades. CBS has consistently been the most-watched network on television, even as changes transformed the industry, first with cable networks investing in shows and then streaming services like Netflix. He’s been paid handsomely for his success, earning just under $70 million in both 2017 and 2016.
Yet accusations emerged against the affable, raspy-voiced former actor last month, when six women accused him of misconduct similar to what came out Sunday. CBS announced an internal probe yet Moonves, who was also involved in a separate power struggle that threatened his future control of the company, remained in charge. In recent days, however, reports leaked that the CBS board and Moonves, 68, were discussing an exit plan. Reports that it could include a multi-million dollar payout provoked some online anger.
The latest allegations were not addressed in CBS’ announcement of Moonves’ exit.
One of the accusers who came forth in the New Yorker’s article on Sunday, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, also filed a complaint with the Los Angeles police last year, but no charges were filed because the statute of limitations had expired. She said Moonves, while an executive at the Lorimar production studio in the late 1980s, pushed her head into his lap and forced her to perform oral sex.
At another time, she said an angry Moonves pushed her hard against a wall. When she resisted later advances, she began to be frozen out at the company, she said.
“He absolutely ruined my career,” she told The New Yorker.
Another woman, Jessica Pallingston, said Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on her first day working as his assistant at Warner Bros. productions. Other women told the magazine of unwanted touching or advances.
In a statement to the magazine, Moonves said the “appalling accusations” are untrue, but he acknowledged consensual relations with three of the women before he started working at CBS. Moonves was married at the time; he divorced his first wife and married CBS on-air personality Julie Chen in 2004.
“I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” he said. “In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.”
In a second statement after his departure, Moonves said he was “deeply saddened” to be leaving the company and its employees. “Together, we built CBS into a destination where the best in the business come to work and succeed,” he said.
With Moonves’ exit, CBS viewers will wonder what the future holds for Chen, who is a panelist on the daytime show “The Talk” and host of the summer series “Big Brother.” She stood in support of her husband when the first allegations hit last month.
Organizations that have supported women coming forward with stories of abuse, including Time’s Up and Press Forward, said Sunday that CBS should be transparent about the findings of its internal investigation despite Moonves’ ouster.
It’s difficult to imagine CBS without Moonves. The network was struggling when he took over as entertainment chief in 1995, hot from a job at the Warner Brothers studio, which developed hits such as “ER” and “Friends.”
He quickly turned things around and churned out programming appealing to the older, more tradition-bound CBS audience — broad appeal sitcoms such as “Everybody Loves Raymond,” ″Two and a Half Men” and “The Big Bang Theory” and procedural dramas such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “NCIS.” ″Survivor” was an early reality show hit, and continues to this day.
Many CBS viewers knew Moonves from the relentless ribbing he took from former late-night host David Letterman. Moonves said there were legitimate hard feelings between the two in his early years, but the relationship warmed before Letterman’s retirement.
Moonves was an advocate for the traditional broadcast network model when others worried it was becoming obsolete, but he also launched streaming services for CBS entertainment and news. He took over the broader CBS Corp. in 2006 but kept his hand in entertainment duties, down to casting decisions for new shows.
His status as an industry king was never more evident than each year in May when CBS introduced the next year’s schedule before an audience of advertisers and media executives crammed into Carnegie Hall. He starred in each year’s presentation, often in elaborate filmed skits.
Yet this spring there were already signs the end was near. Locked in a battle for corporate control with Shari Redstone of National Amusements, Moonves received a standing ovation from an audience that sensed it could be his last year. He even skipped an event he created and relished, an annual breakfast meeting with reporters dubbed “Lox with Les.”
CBS’ board also announced Sunday that Redstone’s National Amusements will not propose a merger between CBS and Viacom, which Redstone had been urging, for two years. Six new CBS board members were also appointed.