CBS lets embattled CEO stay on, orders probe

NEW YORK • The axe did not fall on the neck of Mr Leslie Moonves (above), embattled chief executive of CBS.

On Monday, three days after the publication of an article detailing allegations of sexual harassment against him, the company went through with a regularly scheduled meeting of its board of directors.

Afterwards, CBS said in a statement that its board was "in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation".

It had announced the planned probe last Friday, hours after The New Yorker published a report in which six women said Mr Moonves had asked them for sexual favours and retaliated when they declined.

The CBS statement added: "No other action was taken on this matter at today's board meeting."

That ended the speculation that Mr Moonves would face immediate consequences for his alleged behaviour.

The New Yorker quoted four of the women by name, including film and TV actress Illeana Douglas.

She described a 1997 meeting with the executive during which, she said, he was "violently kissing" her while holding her down.

The lack of action by CBS was striking at a time when some media companies have swiftly removed prominent employees who were accused of misconduct.

Last year, CBS fired anchor Charlie Rose a day after allegations were made against him.

NBC acted quickly last year to fire Matt Lauer of the Today show after he was accused of inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment.

The CBS board could face recriminations from consumers and those who believe it should have taken immediate action.

"It's shortsighted and cowardly of the board," said Mr Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a professor at the Yale School of Management. "They think they're showing courage on behalf of the CEO but they're just circling the wagons right now."

Mr Moonves, 68, has been the chairman of the CBS board since 2016. Most of its 14 members started their tenures after he was appointed chief executive in 2006. Three of the 14 are women, and the board members' average age is 73.

At least two members expressed concern over Mr Moonves' continued leadership in the days leading to the Monday meeting in New York, two people familiar with the matter said.

He draws an annual pay package worth US$69.3 million (S$94.4 million). If the board ultimately fires him without finding him at fault, he will get more than US$184 million in pay and benefits.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2018, with the headline 'CBS lets embattled CEO stay on, orders probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe