CBS Board in Negotiations for CEO Les Moonves to Exit Company

COO Joe Ianniello would succeed him on at least an interim basis

Last Updated: September 6, 2018 @ 9:59 AM

The CBS board is currently in negotiations with CEO Les Moonves to exit the company, multiple people with knowledge of the talks confirmed to TheWrap.

Such a departure would make CBS COO Joe Ianniello the publicly traded company’s interim CEO.

Ianniello is very well-liked and highly respected there.

According to CNBC’s David Faber, who first reported the “deep” negotiations about Moonves’ exit, the current hangup is the size of the longterm executive’s exit package. Under his contract, Moonves is due $180 million in severance, plus a production deal, Faber said. The board is currently offering him a package worth roughly $100 million, which would mostly consist of company stock.

In addition to that slashed golden parachute offer, CNBC reported that the CBS board wants to retain the option to recover some of that settlement compensation should an ongoing investigation into sexual harassment accusations against Moonves uncover more inappropriate behavior.

Reps for CBS declined comment on this story, as did a spokeswoman for National Amusements, Inc. (NAI), the Redstone family-controlled company with a controlling stake in CBS and Viacom.

NAI is headed for trial or settlement with CBS on mostly unrelated matters.

Watch Faber’s Thursday report here:

Though perhaps overshadowed this morning, NAI and the CBS board of directors have been in talks for weeks, trying to reach a settlement in their messy, public legal dispute over control of CBS.

The two sides would like to avoid heading to trial, which is currently scheduled to begin Oct. 3, according to an individual familiar with the talks. Members of the CBS board and representatives for National Amusements met over Labor Day weekend. According to the individual, however, nothing is expected to happen imminently.

In May, CBS filed a suit against Shari Redstone and National Amusements, through which she controls roughly 80 percent of the voting power in CBS.

CBS and Moonves argued that Shari Redstone had shirked her duty to shareholders by pushing for a merger with Viacom, which CBS saw as potentially harmful to the value of the company. Moonves and CBS also laid out a plan to issue dividends that would dilute Redstone’s control of the company altogether.

In July, the New Yorker reported on sexual harassment accusations against Moonves from six women.