Leslie Moonves’ future at CBS is in jeopardy in the wake of a bombshell New Yorker report containing allegations of sexual misconduct by the powerful executive. With CBS shares dropping over the past two sessions, the board of directors can’t afford a misstep — leaving Moonves at a potential turning point, despite the board’s decision on Monday to take no action at the moment.
Replacing Moonves would be no small task. The company, which boasts hit shows such as “NCIS” and “The Big Bang Theory,” has already been roiled by a larger boardroom battle. Moonves has been feuding with Shari Redstone, whose family has a controlling stake in CBS, about her ambitions to merge the company with Viacom. Any potential Moonves replacement would be justified in worrying about being under Redstone’s control, and serving only as a placeholder, perhaps, before her favorite, Viacom’s Bob Bakish, moves into the top spot.
Any candidate would also be in the unenviable position of having to prove he or she can replicate Moonves’ programming Midas touch. Under his watch, CBS has consistently churned out a solid lineup of well-performing series.
That said, there are a few candidates being bandied about as potential contenders to guide CBS through these tumultuous times.
Resume: Former chairman of CitiGroup, former chairman and CEO of Time Warner
Pros: Slated to take a seat on the CBS board, Parsons would have skin in the game and already enjoys a reputation for calming choppy waters. Parsons took the reins at Time Warner following the conglomerate’s disastrous marriage to AOL and got things back on track. He could be a source of stability for a scandal-rocked CBS.
Cons: At 70, Parsons seems to have entered the emeritus phase of his distinguished career. He would be more of an interim option, a task he pulled off with the Los Angeles Clippers when they were facing rough headlines of their own.
Verdict: Only if he’s bored with semi-retirement.
Resume: Chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group
Pros: If CBS is serious about cleaning up any lingering boys club culture, it wouldn’t hurt to have a talented female executive take the reins. Walden is widely known and respected within the creative community, which could be key when it comes to making sure that top showrunners continue to take their projects to the Eye network.
Cons: Walden is in line for a top job at Disney after the company completes its deal to buy most of Fox’s film and television assets. That seems like a better gig.
Verdict: Not unless there’s a major blowup with Bob Iger.
Resume: Chief media officer and executive chairwoman of Eko, a start up focused on interactive music videos. Former president of CBS Entertainment and also served a stint as entertainment president at Microsoft, when that company attempted to produce series for Xbox users.
Pros: Has unique knowledge of CBS’ business operations and Moonves’ management strategy. One of the highest-ranking women to have worked in the TV industry.
Cons: She may appear too close to Moonves at a time when he is under fire. And having left once, isn’t likely to return.
Verdict: Why would she come back under these daunting circumstances?
Resume: Former chairman of Time Warner
Pros: Bewkes may be looking for his second act now that Time Warner has been sold to AT&T. He also has some major programming chops, having previously overseen HBO during its “Sopranos” heyday.
Cons: With a nearly $100 million payout from the AT&T deal, Bewkes doesn’t need the dough…or the aggravation.
Verdict: If everyone else passes…and it turns out Bewkes hates golf.
Resume: Former chairwoman of CBS Entertainment, with a nearly 20-year track record at the network. Now running her own studio with producer Denise Di Novi.
Pros: Understands CBS’ content strategy like few other executives. Knows the ins and outs of Black Rock office politics.
Cons: Tassler is more closely tied to the creative side of CBS than the business end.
Verdict: Only if she’s frustrated with being a producer. She knows drama, but this could be one she prefers a competitor would pick up.
Resume: CEO of Viacom
Pros: Bakish is seen as a favorite of Shari Redstone, who leads CBS’ controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc. He has deep experience in distributing and selling U.S. content to overseas markets, one strategy that has been pursued by CBS.
Cons: Has no experience running a national broadcast network.
Verdict: The only thing keeping him from the role is the CBS board’s desire for other options. Smart money says Bakish isn’t to be dismissed lightly.