Leslie Moonves out as CBS CEO after sexual harassment allegations

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is leaving his post following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct that spanned much of his career, the company announced on Sunday evening.

CBS announced Moonves will depart as chairman, president and chief executive officer “effective immediately.”

The company said COO Joseph Ianniello will now act as president and acting CEO “while the Board conducts a search for a permanent successor.”

The allegations against Moonves were brought to light in a New Yorker article by Ronan Farrow in August in which six women accused Moonves of sexual misconduct and damaging their careers. A second New Yorker article by Farrow published on Sunday contained allegations by six more women. Moonves denied the allegations and characterized his relationships with some of the women as consensual.

CBS has been investigating the allegations against Moonves since they were published in the New Yorker article in August.

In a statement following CBS’s announcement of his departure, Moonves denied the allegations against him.

“Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am,” he said. “I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.”

Les Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corp.

Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Les Moonves, president and chief executive officer of CBS Corp.

The company said in its announcement that “Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.” The $20 million will come out of any severance Moonves may receive following the CBS investigation.

CBS also reached an agreement with National Amusements, Inc. (NAI) Sunday. NAI owns a controlling stake in CBS. The two companies will drop their lawsuit against each other, and NAI will not pursue the merger of CBS and Viacom for at least two years.

The CBS board will also change. Five independent directors and one director aligned with NAI have stepped down from the board. Six new independent members have been appointed to replace them: Candace Beinecke, Barbara Byrne, Brian Goldner, Richard D. Parsons, Susan Schuman and Strauss Zelnick.

CNBC’s David Faber reported last week that CBS was considering a $100 million exit package for Moonves. But following the new allegations in Sunday’s New Yorker article, sources familiar with the situation told Faber that Moonves would not get a severance package, pending the results of the investigation into the allegations against Moonves.

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