Two months shy of his 80th birthday, music industry veteran Doug Morris is vacating his seat on CBS Corp.’s board of directors. The announcement came Sept. 9 on the heels of news that Les Moonves was stepping down as chairman and CEO of CBS amid a cascade of sexual assault allegations.
Morris, the only executive to have held a chief position at each of the three major music groups (Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group and Sony Music), joined the board in 2007 when he was chairman and CEO of Vivendi’s UMG. Last year Morris collected some $332,000 in compensation and stock, according to an SEC filing by CBS, for his service on the board.
Morris spent 2011 through 2017 as CEO of Sony Music, home to Adele, Bruce Springsteen and Tony Bennett, among many others. His first ascent to the top of the C-suite came in 1994 when Morris took on the role of president and COO of Warner Music U.S. and was appointed chairman soon after. His exit from the company was itself scandalous at the time. Staffers at Atlantic Records, which fell under his purview, were accused of participating in a scheme to sell “cleans” — or promotional copies of albums in the form of compact discs — and pocket the profit, stiffing artists and songwriters out of royalties.
Morris was forced out and, in response, filed a $50 million wrongful termination suit.
At CBS, Morris served on the compensation committee, whose role on the board required him to “approve … compensation of the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer.” That committee was also required to “periodically review a succession plan.” There was some concern among music industry advocates of #MeToo and Time’s Up about Morris’ checkered past and whether he would play a part in deciding a potential severance for Moonves. As it turned out, the final negotiations of Moonves’ deal were handled primarily by lead CBS independent director Bruce Gordon.
Also exiting the board along with Morris are Arnold Kopelson, Leonard Goldberg, Charles Gifford and David Andelman. In their place are new board members Candace Beinecke, Barbara Byrne, Brian Goldner, Richard D. Parsons, Susan Schuman and Strauss Zelnick.
Morris currently runs New York-based label 12 Tone Records, which in July released the track “Bubblin'” by rapper Anderson.Paak in partnership with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Entertainment.