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Les Moonves resigns from CBS amid new allegations of sexual misconduct

Samuel Osborne
The Independent
Les Moonves has been CEO of CBS Corp since 2006: AP

Shares in CBS fell sharply on Monday as the television network faced a future without chairman Les Moonves, who resigned hours after six women made allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

The chairman, CEO and president, was already under investigation by the company for similar allegations made by six others.

The New Yorker magazine reported the latest accusations, which included Mr Moonves allegedly exposing himself.

Mr Moonves acknowledged relations with three of the women, but said they were consensual, adding he never used his position to hurt the careers of women.

Mr Moonves again denied the allegations in a statement issued late on Sunday night. “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am,” he said.

Shares in CBS rebounded somewhat in the afternoon, but were still down about 1 per cent.

CBS has not addressed the allegations directly, but said Mr Moonves would donate $20m (£15.5m) to organisations supporting the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.

“The donation, which will be made immediately, has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due [to] Moonves,” the statement said.

CBS will pay Moonves $120m if its ongoing investigation fails to find any evidence of sexual misconduct. CBS has hired two law firms to investigate the claims.

In a regulatory filing on Monday, CBS says the company will put $120m in a trust that will go back to the company if the charges are substantiated and the CBS board decides it has cause for termination. Mr Moonves will receive the $120m as severance if the investigation doesn’t substantiate the allegations.

“I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company,” Mr Moonves said, calling it “an incredible privilege” to have worked for CBS.

“The best part of this journey has been working alongside the dedicated and talented people in this company,” he said.

CBS said the network’s chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will take over Mr Moonves’ duties as president and CEO until its board of directors can find a permanent replacement. Mr Moonves’ role as chairman will remain vacant for the time being.

Although it was widely reported Mr Moonves would leave the network shortly and was negotiating a severance package, CBS said he would not receive any severance benefits until the conclusion of an independent investigation.

Mr Moonves joined CBS as head of entertainment in 1995, and has been CEO of CBS Corp since 2006, leading the CBS network, Showtime and other entities.

CBS has spent much of his tenure as the nation’s most popular broadcast network, with hits such as The Big Bang Theory and NCIS and its success has made Mr Moonves one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives in the business.

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