UPDATED with comment from Shari Redstone
The company’s independent board issued a statement saying it takes allegations of misconduct seriously, without identifying Moonves. The statement comes ahead of an anticipated report alleging that one the most powerful men in Hollywood is accused of unwanted kissing and touching.
“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,” the directors said in a statement.
CBS’s board notes that the timing of this report comes in the midst of the media company’s very public legal dispute with Shari Redstone and National Amusements in which the board is seeking to diminish the role of its controlling shareholder. Redstone had been the chief proponent of recombining corporate siblings CBS and Viacom, a merger the CBS board ultimately rejected.
National Amusements issued a statement, challenging some press reports that Redstone may have contributed to the article.
“The malicious insinuation that Ms. Redstone is somehow behind the allegations of inappropriate personal behavior by Mr. Moonves or today’s reports is false and self-serving,” Redstone said in a statement.
One prominent media analyst, Doug Creutz, raised questions about the timing of the anticipated story, landing just two weeks ahead of the annual shareholder meeting and months ahead of the looming court battle in Delaware. He notes any board investigation would take time, and that Moonves would likely remain the company’s CEO until it’s completed.
“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,” Creutz wrote. “This (a) sets up a very messy succession scenario and (b) greatly increases the likelihood that the Redstones prevail in their fight, with a probable outcome of (Viacom CEO) Bob Bakish eventually presiding over a recombined CBS/Viacom.”
The company’s stock took a nose-dive on the news, dropping 6% in midday trading to $54.04.
The New Yorker did not respond to Deadline’s request, seeking confirmation about the story — which is reportedly the product of months of investigation by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ronan Farrow. His early work surfaced allegations of rape and sexual harassment by The Weinstein Co.’s co-founder, Harvey Weinstein.
Moonves is perhaps one of the most influential figures in entertainment, credited with reviving the once laggard CBS television network into a broadcasting powerhouse. Over the course of his tenure, the network has commanded top ratings and produced such hits as The Big Bang Theory, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, SURVIVOR, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
Before joining CBS in 1995 as president of entertainment, Moonves was president of Warner Bros. Television, where his team developed such hit shows as Friends and ER and supplied the largest number of programs to network television for nine consecutive years.
The 68-year-old executive is married to Julie Chen, co-host of The Talk.