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CBS Shares Fluctuate After Report of Possible Moonves Exit

Leslie Moonves. Allen & Company Sun
Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock

Shares of CBS Corp. fell in premarket trading, then rose slightly after CNBC reported the company’s board and its CEO, Leslie Moonves, had entered into negotiations that could lead to his exit.

A spokesperson for the CBS board of directors could not be reached for immediate comment.

According to CNBC, Joe Ianiello, the company’s chief operating officer, could be named interim CEO, depending on the talks. The report said negotiations have partly centered around the amount of severance the CBS chief might receive. His contract calls for up to $180 million in severance and a production deal, but CNBC reported one potential outcome could be around $100 million in a package of CBS stock. Some of that money, CBS said, could be taken back depending upon the outcome of legal probes examining allegations published by The New Yorker suggesting Moonves might have retaliated against women who rebuffed his sexual advances.

CBS and its parent company, National Amusements Inc., have been in ongoing discussions  in an effort to head off the start of the trial in Delaware Chancery Court set for Oct. 3. Sources familiar with the situation said the talks between some CBS board members and representatives for NAI picked up steam during Labor Day weekend. The lawsuit filed May 14 by CBS grew out of the conflict between CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves and NAI president Shari Redstone over the fate of CBS and the proposed merger with Viacom, which NAI also controls.  The CBS board of directors is also said to be deep in discussions about Moonves’ future at the helm of CBS.