CBS is officially parting ways with CEO Leslie "Les" Moonves following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations. The massive media mogul has previously been accused of various misconduct by six women in July. Now, a new recently published piece has six more women, including TV executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, accusing him of further sexual misconduct at various times from the 1980s up to the early 2000s. As a result, Moonves has departed the company, effective immediately.
CBS has already been negotiating an exit with Les Moonves following the initial sexual misconduct allegations that were brought to light. At the time, it looked like Moonves was going to leave his position with a severance package of $100 million or more. However, once the new allegations were brought to light, things changed. It's unclear what, if any, compensation Moonves will now receive, but CBS will donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement. That money will be deducted from the amount that Moonves would have been eligible to receive.
Les Moonves is easily the most powerful figure in the business to step down as a result of the #MeToo movement, which kicked off with the Harvey Weinstein allegations last year. Moonves has run CBS since 2006. Joseph Ianniello, the current COO of CBS, will serve as interim CEO while the company's board searches for a permanent leader.
The allegations made against Les Moonves are wide-ranging and troubling. They include everything from forced kissing, forced oral sex, unwanted sexual advances and physical abuse. Several of the accusers say that Moonves tried to derail their careers as a result of them refusing his advances. Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb had actually filed a criminal complaint last year. But even though her allegations were said to have been found credible, the statute of limitations had run out and charges were not pressed. Moonves, for his part, denied the allegations. He had this to say in a statement.
"The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. 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. 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."
Last month, CBS had hired two different outside law firms to investigate the various claims made against the 68-year-old executive. One particularly important element to this situation is that Shari Redstone, CBS' controlling shareholder, and Les Moonves had been at odds. Redstone had been pushing to merge CBS with Viacom and Moonves had opposed the move. Even though Moonves is now out of the picture, as part of an agreement reached over the weekend, Redstone will not pursue such a merger for at least two years. The full piece detailing the accusations made against Moonves was published by The New Yorker.