CBS & National Amusements In Talks To End Dispute; Fate Of Les Moonves TBD

By Dawn C. Chmielewski, Dominic Patten


EXCLUSIVE: Just weeks before the fall TV season starts, the bitter legal battle between CBS and National Amusements over corporate control and a possible merger with Viacom may be coming to an end.

The Les Moonves-led company, which fired the first cannon with its May 14 breach of fiduciary duty suit, and the Redstone family dominated holding company are in settlements talks, we’ve learned.

With a myriad of issues on the table in the now multiple lawsuits, the recently started sit-down has not come to a conclusion over the fate of CBS CEO Moonves, who has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Two law firms are conducting independent investigations into the allegations and broader questions about workplace conduct, reporting to the sub-committee of the CBS board of directors.

The Moonves matter is currently being treated as separate from the ongoing talks as the investigations proceed, sources say.

Sources say CBS board members met throughout the Labor Day weekend to discuss resolving the contentious case against its controlling shareholder, National Amusements. One of the media company’s independent directors, Bruce Gordon, apparently has been advocating a deal to resolve the legal dispute.

With a trial set for October 3, publicly the parties are penciled in to appear in Delaware’s Court of Chancery on September 14 for a hearing on a motion to compel in the intricate matter of stock slicing, corporate bylaws, iPhone filmed footage of the 95-year old Sumner Redstone, so-called missing evidence and a chorus of characters from Moonves to the elder Redstone and his capacity to Shari Redstone, board member and lawyer Robert Klieger and more.

While, such board level discussions make sense with a trial date looming and no one eagerly awaits sitting in a courtroom for revealing weeks on end, a well placed sources caution that talks are fluid, still in a preliminary stage and could fall apart.

CBS’ May filed suit is certainly a high-stakes gambit to assert its independence from Shari Redstone, the media mogul who succeed her father at the top of a media empire that also includes Viacom. The civil suit accused Redstone of trying to intimidate board directors, preventing CBS from exploring merger possibilities with partners other than its corporate sibling, Viacom, and pressuring the CBS CEO  over terms of his contract.

National Amusements has denied all these allegations.

As the two sides exchanged legal barbs, the New Yorker magazine’s late July expose detailing allegations of unwanted touching by Moonves raised questions about how much the board knew and the wisdom of mounting a legal battle with Redstone and National Amusement.

CBS declined to comment on the talks topic as did NAI when contacted by Deadline.


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