In this Sept. 19, 2017 file photo, Les Moonves, chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation, poses at the premiere of the new television series "Star Trek: Discovery" in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File

CBS keeps Moonves in place during sexual misconduct inquiry

July 30, 2018 - 3:17 pm
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NEW YORK (AP) — CBS will keep CEO Les Moonves in place during an investigation of sexual misconduct charges against him, the company said. It will hire an outside counsel to conduct the probe.

On Friday a New Yorker article quoted six women who accused Moonves of sexual misconduct over a span of three decades. The alleged behavior included forced kissing, unwanted sexual advances and career retaliation against women who rebuffed him. CBS issued a statement even before the article was published saying it took the allegations seriously and would begin an investigation.

If its CEO is suspended or departs altogether, CBS would lose its chief amid rapid change in the entertainment industry and a corporate battle with media mogul Shari Redstone, who controls both CBS and its corporate sibling Viacom.

Moonves joined CBS in 1995 as president of CBS Entertainment and quickly climbed the ranks, becoming CEO of CBS Television in 1998 and CEO of the newly created CBS Corp. in 2006 after it split from Viacom. He revived the company, which operates the CBS network, Showtime and other entities, with hit shows like "NCIS" and "The Big Bang Theory."

More recently, the CBS chief introduced separate streaming CBS and Showtime services as more people "cut the cord" and watch TV online. The network consistently tops its rivals in prime-time ratings.

"He's done a terrific job in focusing the company on important franchises and pushing them to the future" with streaming services, said Moody's analyst Neil Begley.

Moonves is also pushing to keep CBS independent against the wishes of Redstone, who wants to combine CBS with Viacom.

A likely successor, at least on an interim basis, is Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello, analysts said. Ianniello, who has held his current position since 2003, has steered top projects such CBS All Access and Showtime streaming services. But he comes from a finance background, holding finance roles at CBS from 2006 to 2013, rather than a creative or sales background. That might make him an awkward long-term leader for the company.

The CBS board on Monday also voted to postpone the shareholder meeting that had been scheduled for Aug. 10 to a later date yet to be determined. Shares were up a penny in aftermarket trading after closing down 5 percent at $51.28.

Moonves' wife, Julie Chen, is staying mum about the sexual harassment allegations against her husband.

On Monday's episode of her daytime CBS chat show, "The Talk," she said she will not discuss the issue on the air. Chen says she has already made one statement on the matter and she will "stand by that statement today, tomorrow, forever."

On Friday, she tweeted that she "fully supported" Moonves, calling him a "kind, decent and moral human being."

Chen and Moonves have been married for almost 14 years and are the parents of a son, Charlie. She is a former CBS news anchor who also hosts the "Big Brother" reality show.

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