Update: After this article was published, The New Yorker posted an article by Ronan Farrow, who wrote that six women told him that Les Moonves sexually harassed them between the 1980s and the 2000s. "What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating," the actress and writer Illeana Douglas told Farrow. In a statement to The New Yorker, Moonves said he recognized that "there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances." Those were mistakes that he regets, Moonves said. "But I always understood and respected—and abided by the principle—that 'no' means 'no,' and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career."
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves is under investigation by the company for sexual misconduct following reports that the network's chief will be at the center of an impending report in The New Yorker.
"All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously," the company said in a statement Friday afternoon. "The Independent Directors of CBS have committed to investigating claims that violate the Company's clear policies in that regard. Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action."
CBS's statement does not actually identify Moonves by name.
The allegations come as CBS is at the center of a very public legal dispute with Shari Redstone and her National Amusements for control of the company.
"While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members," CBS said. "Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners."
According to reports, The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow will publish an expose on Friday that will detail allegations of supposed unwanted kissing and touching that occurred more than two decades ago, along with allegations involving more recent occurrences.
Farrow himself used Twitter to suggest that people should wait to read his actual reporting before drawing conclusions.
A quick reminder that I don't comment on reporting I haven't published, and if you're reading about my work from secondary sources you're often not getting the full or correct story—especially in cases where parties have an interest in downplaying or otherwise spinning.— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) July 27, 2018
Analysts and others, however, were already gaming out what might unfold.
"If the claims turn out to have merit, then we would expect that Moonves would almost certainly be forced to step down from the CEO role and the board," Doug Creutz, managing director and senior research analyst at Cowen, wrote in a research note. That would set up a very messy succession scenario and greatly increase the likelihood that Redstone will prevail in her fight, he said. The most likely outcome in that case would be Viacom CEO Bob Bakish taking the helm of a recombined Viacom and CBS. Redstone wants CBS and Viacom, another company in which National Amusements holds a controlling stake, to merge.
"In such a case, we think the effect on CBS as a business would be somewhat shattering, with several other key execs likely exiting, out of loyalty to Moonves and/or association with the scandal," Creutz wrote. "We would view the resulting integration as likely to be very, very difficult."
CBS ad sales, however, are unlikely to be hurt. "I don't think it will have a direct impact," one ad buyer said in an email, speaking on condition of anonymity to speak more freely. "Unfortunately these things are commonplace enough that advertisers can't make investment decisions based on them. And if the accusations are found to be true (and bad), CBS will likely remove him before there is a chance for ad revenue to be significantly impacted."
Moonves is the latest media heavyweight to be accused of sexual misconduct and harassment amid the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. CBS already dropped Charlie Rose, the journalist and host of "CBS This Morning," late last year over sexual harassment claims. And Matt Lauer was fired from NBC's "Today" following similar accusations.
Roy Price, the former head of Amazon Studios, left the company in October after sexual harassment claims against him. John Lasseter, chief creative officer of Pixar and Walt Disney Studios, will leave the company at the end of the year following allegations of inappropriate behavior.