CBS sets aside $120M for Moonves
NEW YORK — CBS revealed Monday that it set aside $120 million in severance for ousted chief executive Leslie Moonves. But whether he sees a penny of it is one of the tough and potentially incendiary decisions that the network faces after his resignation over sexual misconduct accusations.
Despite Moonves’ announced exit Sunday, outside lawyers hired by CBS continue to investigate allegations against him and Jeff Fager, the top executive at “60 Minutes.” In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, CBS said it will release the severance money if the investigation finds there was no cause for him to be fired.
Any payment to Moonves is likely to anger the #MeToo movement that has brought down other powerful men in Hollywood and the media.
Meanwhile, Moonves’ wife, Julie Chen, did not appear Monday on the season-opening episode of her daytime show, “The Talk,” and co-host Sharon Osbourne said on the air that “everyone here at CBS is nervous about their jobs.” CBS’ stock price slid.
As head of television’s most popular network, Moonves was among the most powerful and richest executives in the TV industry, making a total of nearly $140 million over the last two years.
His exit was announced hours after The New Yorker posted a detailed story alleging misconduct. In two stories posted this summer, a total of 12 women have said they were mistreated by the TV mogul, including forced oral sex, groping and retaliation if they resisted. Moonves has denied the charges, though he said he had consensual relations with some of the women.
Some of the allegations predate Moonves’ working at CBS, which he joined as entertainment president in 1995. A determination on whether there was cause for his firing will focus on whether he violated any company policies while at CBS, said Dan Eaton, an employment lawyer and expert on severance issues as a professor at San Diego State University.
“If it turns that their reporting comes back with inconclusive findings on Mr. Moonves’ conduct, then a negotiated resolution is highly probable,” Eaton said.
CBS Corp. stock ended the day down 85 cents, or less than 2 percent, after rebounding in the afternoon. The stock has fallen more than 8 percent this year, with its biggest drop when the first round of accusations against Moonves surfaced.