Leslie Moonves has stepped down from his role as chairman and c.e.o. of CBS Corporation, parent company of Simon & Schuster, weeks after allegations of sexual misconduct were published in the media.
Ronan Farrow published an article in the August issue of the New Yorker detailing the allegations of six women who had professional dealings with Moonves. Moonves denied the allegations, saying that he had made “mistakes” but never “misused” his position.
CBS Corporation said Moonves was stepping down with immediate effect and that Moonves and the company would donate $20m (£15.5m) to one or more organisations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.
The donation has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves following an investigation led by two independent law firms. “Moonves will not receive any severance benefits at this time (other than certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits); any payments to be made in the future will depend upon the results of the independent investigation and subsequent board evaluation,” the company said.
In the New Yorker article six women alleged sexual misconduct between the 1980s and late 2000s; four described forcible touching or kissing during business meetings and two said that Moonves physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers. One, a prominent actress, who spoke to Farrow anonymously for fear of reprisals, said she was asked to write a book for S&S US after experiencing unwanted sexual advances from Moonves.
Responding to the allegations, Moonves told the New Yorker.“Throughout my time at CBS, we have promoted a culture of respect and opportunity for all employees, and have consistently found success elevating women to top executive positions across our company. I recognise that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected—and abided by the principle—that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone’s career. This is a time when we all are appropriately focused on how we help improve our society, and we at CBS are committed to being part of the solution.”
C.o.o. Joseph Ianniello will serve as president and acting c.e.o. at CBS while the board searches for Moonves’ successor and the chairman position will remain open, pending the appointment of a permanent c.e.o.
Six directors have stepped down and six new independent directors have been elected to the board: Candace Beinecke, Barbara Byrne, Brian Goldner, Richard D. Parsons, Susan Schuman and Strauss Zelnick.
Vice chair Shari Redstone said: “CBS is an organisation of talented and dedicated people who have created one of the most successful media companies in the world. Today’s resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS - and transforming it for the future.”
Earlier, S&S US president and c.e.o. Carolyn Reidy had spoken out in support of Moonves, saying the description in the New Yorker piece was "not recognisable" to her.