CBS Says Les Moonves Will Leave Immediately as Chairman and CEO After New Allegations of Sexual Misconduct, Ending a 20-Year Tenure Atop One of the Country’s Most Important Media Empires

CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves attends the CBS Network 2015 Programming Upfront at Lincoln Center in New York on May 13, 2015. Evan Agostini / Invision/AP file

Moonves will get no severance for now, and CBS will make a $20 million donation to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement.

Les Moonves, chairman and chief executive of CBS Corp., will leave the company after six additional women accused him on the record of sexual harassment or assault, CBS said Sunday night.

The new accusations, which The New Yorker reported on Sunday, brought the total number of accusers against Moonves to 12. Dozens more claim that the company tolerated sexual misconduct. NBC News hasn’t independently verified the allegations, which Moonves, 68, has denied.

Under the agreement, CBS and Moonves “will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace,” CBS said in a statement. It said the donation would be made immediately and that it would be deducted from any severance payments that could be owed to Moonves once an independent outside investigation is completed.

Moonves won’t receive any severance payments at this time, CBS said. CBS News reported Sunday night that Moonves had been eligible for as much as $180 million were he to be fired without cause, according to an employment contract he signed in May 2017.

CBS’ chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will serve as president and acting chief executive pending selection of a permanent successor, CBS said.

The move comes with a reorganization of the company’s divided board of directors. Six current directors stepped down on Sunday, to be replaced by six new independent directors — settling a long battle between CBS and its controlling shareholder, National Amusements Inc., according to the statement.

The new allegations against Moonves span the 1980s to the early 2000s, according to The New Yorker, which originally published the allegations of sexual misconduct last month. They include a range of accusations: forced oral sex, forcible touching or kissing, and physical intimidation.

Many of the women told The New Yorker that Moonves retaliated against them if they rejected his advances. He denied all allegations and said they were intended to undermine his career.

“The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” Moonves told The New Yorker in a statement. “What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. 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. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.”

Moonves didn’t tell The New Yorker which three relationships he considered consensual.

Another woman also accused Jeff Fager, the executive producer of “60 Minutes,” of sexual misconduct, telling the magazine that he groped her at a work party when she was an intern at CBS in the early 2000s. In a previous New Yorker article from August, six women accused Fager of touching employees inappropriately at company parties in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.

Fager also denied the allegations made against him. He isn’t mentioned in the CBS statement.

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SOURCE: CBS – Phil McCausland and Alex Johnson