New CBS Acting CEO Promises “Safe & Positive Working Environment” To Staff

By Dominic Patten, Dade Hayes, Dawn C. Chmielewski


EXCLUSIVE: Just over 12 hours after longtime CBS CEO and chair Les Moonves exited the company under an ever-thickening cloud of sexual misconduct allegations and corporate legal battles, the new acting CEO today sought to rally the beleaguered troops and Wall Street with promises of “providing continuity and stability.”

In a memo (read in full below) to CBS staff that Deadline has obtained, former COO Joe Ianniello made a brief mention of Moonves’ departure but said nothing of the reasons surrounding it.

As the start of the new TV season looms, the new acting CEO did make a more lower wattage version of a Moonves-type of pitch for “content” as CBS’s bread and butter. Perhaps more significantly in the current context, a “humbled” Ianniello also made sure in his words to CBS staff to emphasize another required note by stressing that the company “has a steadfast commitment to diversity, inclusion and a safe and positive working environment.”

Today’s memo from the new boss comes as CBS Monday morning filed paperwork with the SEC furthering detailing its changes at the top, new board members appointed by the Redstone family dominated National Amusements and offered clues about what multi-million dollar compensation Moonves could receive once investigations are completed into claims of decades-old harassment and assault. No other major executive shake-ups have been announced, though we hear that there is some anxiety in the CBS corner offices in both LA and NYC as to what moves the now victorious Shari Redstone will make in the coming days and months to cement her own reign.

A filing is expected soon in Delaware formally ending the CBS May 14 lawsuit with NAI over corporate control and a possible Viacom merger that kicked off the sequence of events that led to Moonves’ dethroning on Sunday.

While a search goes on for a permanent CEO, Ianniello will warm the big chair. However, having held the COO post since 2013, Ianniello was long seen as Moonves’ successor and a familiar presence to investors and executives. In no small part because of that, which is surely why the language of stability was in his memo, Ianniello is also viewed as a viable candidate to become CEO permanently too.

He certainly is tying to sound like it.

Read all of Joe Ianniello’s memo to CBS staff here:

Today the Board of Directors named me as President and Acting Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation. I am honored to have this responsibility, and I’m excited to take on a greater role. I have been with this Company for 21 years, and I look forward to providing continuity and stability, while at the same time fostering our culture of innovation.

Today also marks a major transition for all of us as Leslie Moonves departs from CBS. Les’ departure occurs at a time when we are operating from a position of great strategic strength. As you all know, there is amazing work going on across the Company, and I feel confident we have the best people in the business to continue building on our outstanding success.

Led by CBS and SHOWTIME (and their fast-growing direct-to-consumer streaming services), as well as our major market television station group and Simon & Schuster, we also have many of the best assets in the industry.

The strength and evolution of all of these businesses has led us to where we are today – a global premium content powerhouse. Time and again, we have developed and executed strategies that capitalize on our unique and advantageous position, and what’s most exciting is that we are still in the early innings of that process.

At the heart of CBS’ ongoing success is its content, and it’s where our focus must remain. We now spend $7 billion a year on programming, which is on par with some of the largest companies in our industry. Looking ahead, as consumption continues to evolve, so will we. But content will always be at the core of our Company.

Of course, also at the core of any company is its culture. And never has it been more important for us to make it abundantly clear that CBS has a steadfast commitment to diversity, inclusion and a safe and positive working environment. This is an integral part of our growth plan as together we unlock the immense talents across our entire employee base.

Along those lines, I want to take a minute to appreciate all the fantastic work you have done these past several months, as we have continued to move our Company forward no matter the challenges. It is the people of this Corporation that make CBS what it is, and I am humbled to be leading this team. I also want to thank our remarkable Board of Directors for their immense efforts during this time, and welcome our new Board members as well. There is so much more to achieve ahead, and I thank everyone in advance for all you will do as we build on the great success of CBS.

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