NEW YORK • Mr Leslie Moonves, the long-time chief executive of CBS, stepped down on Sunday night from the company he led for 15 years. His fall from Hollywood's highest echelon was all but sealed after the publication earlier in the day of new sexual harassment allegations against him.
The CBS board announced his departure, effective immediately. As part of the agreement, the network said it would donate US$20 million (S$28 million) to one or more organisations that support equality for women in the workplace.
The donation will be deducted from a potential severance benefit to Mr Moonves, although he could still walk away with more than US$120 million, according to two people familiar with the settlement agreement. Mr Moonves, however, will not receive any severance payment until the completion of an independent investigation into the allegations, the board said. He could also receive nothing, based on the investigation's results.
The departure of Mr Moonves marks a stunning reversal for an executive who is credited with turning CBS into television's most-watched network.
But he has been under intense pressure since July, when The New Yorker published an article by investigative journalist Ronan Farrow in which six women accused Mr Moonves of sexual harassment. On Sunday, the magazine published another article by Mr Farrow in which six more women detailed claims against Mr Moonves.
Mr Moonves is the latest high-powered entertainment figure to be ousted from his perch in the #MeToo era. Movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been accused by scores of women of sexual assault and now faces felony charges.
What CBS is donating, as part of the agreement, to one or more groups that support equality for women in the workplace.
Mr Matt Lauer stepped down as the anchor of NBC's most valuable news programme, Today, after several women alleged incidents of sexual harassment. Mr Charlie Rose of CBS and PBS left the airwaves after he, too, was implicated by multiple women. And Fox News saw the departures of founding executive Roger Ailes and its top-rated host, Bill O'Reilly. All of those men have denied any non-consensual sexual activity.
The incidents described in the two articles in The New Yorker went back to the 1980s. The women claim that Mr Moonves, 68, had forced himself on them and in some cases retaliated professionally after some declined his advances.
One woman, veteran television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department last year, according to The New Yorker. She said Mr Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on him and, in another instance, had "violently" thrown her against a wall.
Mr Moonves told The New Yorker: "The appalling accusations in this article are untrue."
He admitted to "consensual relations" with three of the women.
"In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations," Mr Moonves said.
"I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career."