Bowing to pressure brought on by a sexual harassment scandal, CBS Corp. chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves was expected to resign late Sunday or early Monday, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Negotiations over the terms of his departure accelerated after a new report Sunday in the New Yorker magazine, which detailed six women’s allegations of sexual misconduct involving Moonves in the 1980s and 1990s.
His departure was not unexpected. Moonves, 68, has been negotiating a settlement with independent CBS board members in recent weeks. But talks heated up after the latest allegations contained in the New Yorker article, which included the account of a former Lorimar television executive, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb. She described being attacked by Moonves in the mid-1980s when the two were colleagues at CBS.
Golden-Gottlieb filed a report with the Los Angeles Police Department last year, and police found her allegations to be credible, according to law enforcement sources. She described two incidents, including one in which she said Moonves demanded that she perform oral sex on him. In the second incident, Moonves was angry over a work matter and allegedly slammed her against a wall. But prosecutors declined to bring charges because the incidents were more than 30 years old and the statute of limitations had expired.
CBS board member Bruce Gordon has been leading the efforts to settle with Moonves and end a lawsuit with National Amusements Inc., the Redstone family investment vehicle that owns the controlling shares of CBS.
Joseph Ianniello, CBS’ chief operating officer, is expected to be elevated to interim CEO. He has been with CBS, and its corporate predecessor, Viacom Inc., for 18 years.
Moonves will become the highest-profile media figure to step down in the #MeToo era. Twelve women have separately accused him of sexual conduct in the two articles by investigative reporter Ronan Farrow. Sunday’s article in the New Yorker detailed allegations that Moonves demanded massages from women, or forcibly kissed them.
Moonves told the New Yorker that some of the encounters were consensual. A spokesperson for Moonves was not available to comment.
Moonves has been the face of CBS since 1995. He took over a floundering television network and steadily built it into a juggernaut that attracts more viewers than any other U.S. TV network.
Since 2006, Moonves has been CEO of CBS Corp., which in addition to the broadcast network, owns a string of television stations, a television production studio, the Showtime premium channel, publisher Simon & Schuster and a 50 percent stake in the CW network.