UPDATED: Shares of CBS took a sharp downturn Friday — falling more than 6% — after reports that CEO Leslie Moonves is the subject of a New Yorker exposé revealing that he has been accused of incidents of sexual harassment dating back more than two decades.
The claims in the New Yorker piece, by Ronan Farrow, reportedly include incidents of unwanted touching and kissing. The CBS chief has been married to CBS personality Julie Chen since 2004.
It’s not immediately known who Moonves’ accusers are. The New Yorker piece was said to be set to publish Friday.
CBS stock closed down 6.1% Friday, to $54.01 per share, representing an approximately $1.4 billion loss of market value.
In a statement, CBS Corp. said it would investigate any claims made against Moonves.
“All allegations of personal misconduct are to be taken seriously,” CBS said in a statement. “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.”
CBS, in its statement, noted that the reported timing of the New Yorker piece “comes in the midst of the company’s very public legal dispute.” That’s a reference to the legal battle between CBS’s board and Shari Redstone, whose National Amusements (which owns a controlling stake in CBS) is attempting to force a merger between Viacom and CBS.
Shari Redstone, through a spokeswoman, said she hopes for a “thorough, open and transparent” investigation into allegations against Moonves. The rep also said, “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.”
Amid a decline in the broader market, shares of Viacom closed up 4.6%. Separately Friday, Viacom announced the acquisition of AwesomenessTV, a digital media company that targets Gen Z audiences, at a significant discount from its prior valuation.
Farrow’s in the New Yorker last October on Harvey Weinstein detailed sexual misconduct allegations against the erstwhile Hollywood titan, following an initial report by the New York Times.