Business & Tech

CBS board to discuss CEO’s role in wake of misconduct claims

CBS chief executive Les Moonves.
Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/file 2017
CBS chief executive Les Moonves.

NEW YORK — The board of CBS Corp. spent most of the weekend discussing what immediate actions it should take involving Les Moonves, the company’s chief executive, after a published report that included allegations of sexual misconduct from six women.

At least two of the board’s 14 members have questioned whether Moonves should continue to run the company during an internal investigation, according to two people familiar with the conversations who asked not to be named because the matter was confidential. The board has also discussed how they should proceed with the investigation.

The board hopes to hammer out some of the details, including the scope of the inquiry, during a regularly scheduled meeting Monday, the people said. CBS declined to comment on board discussions Sunday.


The investigation was prompted by a report in The New Yorker on Friday that included detailed descriptions of allegations from six women who said that Moonves had asked them for sexual favors and retaliated when they declined. Four women spoke on the record, including the Emmy award-winning actress Illeana Douglas, who described a 1997 meeting with Moonves during which, she said, he was “violently kissing” her while holding her down.

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Moonves, 68, has held senior management roles at the network for more than three decades and has been chief executive of the company since 2006. He led a successful turnaround effort at CBS, transforming it from a last-place network to the most-watched channel for nearly a decade, with hits like “The Big Bang Theory,” “Survivor” and “Young Sheldon.”

But his role had already been in jeopardy because of a separate legal battle with Shari Redstone, the leader of CBS’ parent company, National Amusements. Moonves and the CBS board have sued Redstone in an attempt to prevent the parent company from trying to merge the network with Viacom, which is also in the corporate family. The lawsuit is due for trial in October. If Moonves loses, he may end up leaving the company.

In May, CBS and Moonves lost one of the early rounds in the dispute when a judge ruled against CBS’ effort to reduce Redstone’s influence over the network. She, through her family company, controls nearly 80 percent of the company’s voting rights. Three members of the CBS board are directly nominated by National Amusements, including Redstone’s seat.

In a statement announcing the investigation Friday, the independent directors of the CBS board — those not directly associated with the company or its corporate parent — pointed out that the New Yorker article had been published amid the legal dispute.


Redstone, however, denied that she had anything to do with the article.

“The malicious insinuation that Ms. Redstone is somehow behind the allegations of inappropriate personal behavior by Mr. Moonves or today’s reports is false and self-serving,” a statement from her representative said. “Ms. Redstone hopes that the investigation of these allegations is thorough, open and transparent.”

Redstone, who is vice chairman of the CBS board, planned to participate in the Monday board meeting, which will be conducted over a conference call, one of the people said.

The CBS board’s independent members said in their Friday statement that after the board completes its investigation, it “will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action.”