Reports: CBS Negotiating With Moonves Over Exit Package

CBS is negotiating an exit package with CEO Les Moonves, according to several reports.

Moonves’ position at the company has been hurt by published accusations of improper behavior with women and because he has been fighting for independence from the Redstone family, which owns a controlling interest in the company and has been pushing a merger with Viacom, the other media company the Redstone’s control.

The CBS board is offering Moonves $100 million in stock as an exit package, according to a report by CNBC, citing sources familiar with the situation. The board also wants to be able to take back some of the stock should its investigation into Moonves’ behavior turn up more abuses.

According to Moonves’ contract, he is supposed to receive about $180 million in severance payments. His deal also calls for him to get a production deal financed by CBS.

The sources say the board wants the right to claw back some of that.

Moonves came under fire after a New Yorker story in which six women, including actresses, producers and executives, made accusations ranging from unwanted advances to sexual assault against Moonves. The incidents came over the course of his career, from 1985, before he was at CBS, to most recently in 2006.

There have also been reports that Redstones have begun to look for a CEO to succeed Moonves.

The CBS board is also in a dispute with National Amusements, the Redstone family’s investment company, which own 80% of the CBS voting stock.

The board in May voted to issue a stock dividend that would dilute the Redstone’s stake to 19%, but National Amusements sued and halted the effort.

A trial in the matter is scheduled for next month.

CBS and National Amusements have been negotiating to settle the dispute, with a two-year standstill agreement regarding a Viacom combination a key part of the talks, according to Reuters.

Moonves has gotten much of the credit for CBS’s rating success and financial performance, so the turmoil at the company has unsettled Wall Street.

“Investors will be concerned that the CBS Network will not perform as well without Les' leadership, though will be encouraged if National Amusements (the Redstones) agrees to not pursue a Viacom merger,” said Doug Mitchelson, analyst at Credit Suisse.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.