#MeToo meets corporate intrigue as CEO Les Moonves booted out of CBS

Mere hours after publication of Ronan Farrow's article alleging that six women were assaulted or harassed by CBS CEO and chairman Leslie Moonves, the company announced his departure, effective immediately.  CBS News reports on the in-house scandal:

A financial exit package for Moonves will be withheld pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the allegations against him.  Moonves was eligible for as much as $180 million if fired without cause, according to an employment contract he signed in May 2017.  Recent reports indicated a potential payout in the range of $100 million.

This is confusing.  It implies that the firing will be held to be without cause.  And then there is this:

The company said in a statement that CBS and Moonves will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.  The donation will be made immediately, the statement said, and deducted from any severance he ultimately receives.

Are they going half-half?  It makes a huge financial difference.  If Moonves is receiving severance, then the firing was without cause.  Could it be related to the timing of the alleged incidents?  Moonves's denial seems to indicate ancient history:

"The appalling accusations in this article are untrue," the statement reads.  "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 joined CBS in 1995 and has been CEO since 2006.  One of the allegations reported in Farrow's article is much more recent:

Sunday's report from Farrow also includes a new allegation against Fager.  Sarah Johansen, who was an intern in the late 2000s, says Fager once groped her at an office function and described the culture as "sexist" and a "boy's club."

I have no knowledge or opinion as to the veracity or timing of the allegations, but my antenna is picking up hints of another agenda at work:

Moonves had been in a corporate battle with Shari Redstone, controlling shareholder in CBS through her company National Amusements, which also controls Viacom.

Viacom controls several major cable networks, including Comedy Central, MTV and BET, and movie studio Paramount.

Redstone had been pushing to merge CBS and Viacom, and Moonves had opposed the move.

As part of the agreement announced Sunday, Redstone agreed that the company would not pursue a combination of CBS and Viacom for at least two years.

"Today's resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS – and transforming it for the future.  We are confident in Joe's ability to serve as acting CEO," Redstone said.

In the interest of full disclosure, Shari Redstone did some legal work for me many years ago, when she was an attorney in Boston and her father was running the media empire he founded.  I have had no communication with her for decades.

Expert practitioners of high-level corporate politics know how to capitalize on events in the business environment.  I don't know if that is the case here, but the entire #MeToo movement is now at the stage where it is a force that can be harnessed to other agendas.  Long knives are often found in the executive suites of major corporations, particularly when succession issues are pending.

Mere hours after publication of Ronan Farrow's article alleging that six women were assaulted or harassed by CBS CEO and chairman Leslie Moonves, the company announced his departure, effective immediately.  CBS News reports on the in-house scandal:

A financial exit package for Moonves will be withheld pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the allegations against him.  Moonves was eligible for as much as $180 million if fired without cause, according to an employment contract he signed in May 2017.  Recent reports indicated a potential payout in the range of $100 million.

This is confusing.  It implies that the firing will be held to be without cause.  And then there is this:

The company said in a statement that CBS and Moonves will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.  The donation will be made immediately, the statement said, and deducted from any severance he ultimately receives.

Are they going half-half?  It makes a huge financial difference.  If Moonves is receiving severance, then the firing was without cause.  Could it be related to the timing of the alleged incidents?  Moonves's denial seems to indicate ancient history:

"The appalling accusations in this article are untrue," the statement reads.  "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 joined CBS in 1995 and has been CEO since 2006.  One of the allegations reported in Farrow's article is much more recent:

Sunday's report from Farrow also includes a new allegation against Fager.  Sarah Johansen, who was an intern in the late 2000s, says Fager once groped her at an office function and described the culture as "sexist" and a "boy's club."

I have no knowledge or opinion as to the veracity or timing of the allegations, but my antenna is picking up hints of another agenda at work:

Moonves had been in a corporate battle with Shari Redstone, controlling shareholder in CBS through her company National Amusements, which also controls Viacom.

Viacom controls several major cable networks, including Comedy Central, MTV and BET, and movie studio Paramount.

Redstone had been pushing to merge CBS and Viacom, and Moonves had opposed the move.

As part of the agreement announced Sunday, Redstone agreed that the company would not pursue a combination of CBS and Viacom for at least two years.

"Today's resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS – and transforming it for the future.  We are confident in Joe's ability to serve as acting CEO," Redstone said.

In the interest of full disclosure, Shari Redstone did some legal work for me many years ago, when she was an attorney in Boston and her father was running the media empire he founded.  I have had no communication with her for decades.

Expert practitioners of high-level corporate politics know how to capitalize on events in the business environment.  I don't know if that is the case here, but the entire #MeToo movement is now at the stage where it is a force that can be harnessed to other agendas.  Long knives are often found in the executive suites of major corporations, particularly when succession issues are pending.