Acting CBS president-CEO Joe Ianniello has vowed to foster a “safe and positive working environment” for CBS staffers as he takes the helm following Sunday’s upheaval with the departure of Leslie Moonves as chairman-CEO and big changes to the company’s board of directors.
“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,” Ianniello wrote in a memo sent Monday morning to CBS’ 20,000 employees worldwide. “This is an integral part of our growth plan as together we unlock the immense talents across our entire employee base.”
Ianniello takes the reins after Moonves was forced out amid a growing list of women coming forward with sexual assault and misconduct allegations against the longtime industry titan. On Sunday, CBS and National Amusements Inc. also settled the bitter lawsuit that erupted in May as part of a clash between controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and Moonves about the future direction for CBS. Ianniello has been Moonves’ right-hand lieutenant on the business side for more than a decade.
“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,” Ianniello wrote. “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.”
Ianniello noted that CBS Corp. spends about $7 billion a year on content across all of its divisions — the CBS network, Showtime, its local O&O stations and publisher Simon & Schuster.
“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,” Ianniello wrote.
The pressure is CBS leaders because the exposes by Ronan Farrow in the New Yorker that drove Moonves from his perch also raised serious questions about the culture of CBS. Many insiders have bristled at the notion that women face a hostile working environment at CBS. But the scrutiny of Moonves and his actions has cast a cloud across the company. The hope is that a new CEO and big transition on the board of directors — with six new members joining the 14-member panel — will allow for a fresh start.
Ianniello has been closely aligned with Moonves and had been a big proponent of the lawsuit CBS filed against NAI in May. Many insiders are rooting for him to become permanent CEO, but he will have to overcome a rocky relationship with Redstone in recent months, and he will have to make a big impression on the newly constituted board.
Ianniello has been with CBS for 21 years, rising through the ranks on the business side. He has been chief operating officer since 2013. He was promoted to chief financial officer in 2009.