Les Moonves, the longtime chairman and chief executive of CBS Corp. CBS, +2.98% , resigned Sunday following new sexual misconduct allegations against him from six additional women.
In a New Yorker expose published Sunday morning, reporter Ronan Farrow — who first detailed allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against Moonves six weeks ago — revealed six more women have accused Moonves of sexual harassment and sexual assault, dating from the 1980s to the early 2000s. Those include claims that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex without their consent, used physical violence and intimidation, and retaliated against them when his advances were rebuffed.
Sunday evening, CBS announced Moonves will step down immediately and Joseph Ianniello, the chief operating officer, would take over as interim CEO.
Moonves and Shari Redstone, the controlling owner of CBS, had been locked in bitter litigation over control of the company for months, and there had been recent negotiations for the terms of Moonves’ departure.
Among them was a reported $100 million payout. But CBS said Sunday said Moonves would get no severance package at all unless an independent investigation clears him of the sexual misconduct allegations. Regardless of that investigation, a large chunk of his payout is going to charity.
“Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace,” CBS said Sunday. CBS said the donation will be deducted from any severance Moonves receives.
As part of the settlement announced Sunday, Redstone’s company, National Amusements, agreed not to propose a merger between CBS and Viacom Inc. VIA, +1.22% for two years. CBS also announced the addition of six independent directors to its board.
In a statement, 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.”
In a separate statement earlier in the day, Moonves admitted to three of the sexual encounters reported Sunday, but claimed they were consensual. “The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” Moonves said. “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.” In another statement Sunday night, Moonves said: “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.”
Time’s Up, an advocacy group formed by women in Hollywood to oppose inequality, harassment and sexual assault, said in a statement before Moonves’ resignation: “These allegations speak to a culture of toxic complicity at CBS, where the safety of women was continuously ignored to protect the careers of powerful men and the corporation. The CBS Board of Directors has an obligation to move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment for all and rid the company of this toxic culture.”
CBS shares are down about 5% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s SPX, -0.22% gain of more than 7%.