A representative for CBS controlling shareholder Shari Redstone has weighed in on plans for CBS to investigate sexual misconduct claims against chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves, defending Redstone against rumors that she has helped fuel the reporting on Moonves’ behavior to gain favor in the legal battle for control of the company.
The New Yorker is expected to publish a story today detailing allegations of inappropriate behavior by Moonves over his long career. The CBS board of directors responded, even before the story’s publication, that it would mount an investigation into the allegations.
“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 spokeswoman Sara Evans said. “Ms. Redstone hopes that the investigation of these allegations is thorough, open and transparent.”
The 11 independent members of CBS board are in the process of hiring a law firm to handle the probe. Redstone is vice chair of the CBS Corp. board, and she hold same role at Viacom. Redstone and two other CBS board members, Robert Klieger and David Andelman, are considered non-independent because of their ties to her National Amusements holding company, which owns nearly 80% of the voting shares in CBS and in Viacom.
Redstone and Moonves are at odds over the future direction of CBS. The conflict became so great earlier this year that CBS filed suit against National Amusements, accusing Redstone of breaching her fiduciary duty to CBS shareholders. The trial is set for October in Delaware, although there has been much speculation about the sides reaching a settlement before then. The pressure on Moonves created by the sexual misconduct allegations adds another layer of complexity to the corporate battle.
CBS’ independent directors affirmed their “full support” for Moonves and his management team in the statement acknowledging the allegations and the plan to initiate an investigation.
“The timing of this report comes in the midst of the company’s very public legal dispute. While that litigation process continues, the CBS management team has the full support of the independent board members. Along with that team, we will continue to focus on creating value for our shareowners,” the directors said.