Suddenly, it’s getting easier to picture chairman and CEO Les Moonves leaving CBS, even if it’s hard to imagine the company without him.
The ebullient Moonves turned CBS, an old-fashioned broadcaster, into an unlikely success. Working with a close-knit management team, Moonves made CBS thrive by finding shows popular with viewers in and out of the young adult demographic and selling them internationally, pushing hard for retransmission revenue and moving into newfangled over-the-top services like CBS All Access.
The skids for Moonves’ possible departure were greased by published accusations of improper behavior with women over the course of his career and what looks like an unsuccessful power struggle with Shari Redstone, daughter of ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone, whose National Amusements controls 80% of CBS stock. The Redstones want to combine CBS with their other media company, Viacom.
Moonves is unlikely to leave empty-handed. Reports had the CBS board negotiating a severance package with Moonves worth $100 million. That’s less than the $180 million his contract calls for, but still more than the winner of Survivor gets.