CBS Chairman Les Moonves resigns Sunday after more sexual misconduct allegations

CBS Chairman Les Moonves resigns Sunday after more sexual misconduct allegations

United States television giant CBS announced Sunday the immediate departure of powerful CEO Leslie Moonves, one of the biggest scalps in the #MeToo era, following a slew of escalating sexual misconduct allegations.

The company says it and Mr Moonves would donate $20m ($28m AUD) to groups supporting the #MeToo movement.

Moonves departs immediately. Joseph Ianniello, the company's chief operating officer and a longtime acolyte of Moonves, has been named interim CEO while the board conducts a search for a permanent replacement.

Moonves' future at CBS came into question in July, when Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Ronan Farrow published an expose in the New Yorker detailing allegations from six women.

CBS had been investigating Mr Moonves since allegations appeared in the New Yorker in July - and fresh accusations from six more women have appeared.

In a statement to the magazine, Moonves said the "appalling accusations" are untrue, but he acknowledged consensual relations with three of the women before he started working at CBS.

A representative of CBS controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and National Amusements declined to comment.

If Moonves were to be fired without cause, he could receive upwards of $170 million in a severance package. Other women told the magazine of unwanted touching or advances by Moonves.

CBS announced Moonves' departure, which takes effect immediately, early Sunday evening.

Moonves, 68, who turned CBS from an aging radio and TV broadcaster into a provider of shows to digital platforms, was expected to reap an estimated $100 million in severance.

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He had been battling National Amusements over board control, in addition to the harassment complaints.

Farrow's initial piece on Moonves presumably helped him surface other women who claimed similar stories.

O'Donnell went on to reinforce the statement she'd made when her former co-host Charlie Rose had been ousted from CBS last November, following sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.

CBS's board has been in talks with Moonves to negotiate his exit, a source familiar with the matter previously told Reuters. Moonves responded by acknowledging three of the encounters, but insisted they were consensual and that he never misused his status. Led by Moonves, CBS has fought against this, going as far as to file a lawsuit to try and lessen Redstone's power.

The Time's Up movement urged CBS to "move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment", adding: "We will accept nothing less than full transparency of the investigation's findings".

Farrow said some of the women spoke out because they felt CBS was failing to take appropriate action against Moonves.

Moonves had almost $70 million in earnings previous year, and CBS has held the top spot in network ratings for a decade under his leadership.

One of Mr Moonves' accusers, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, also reported her accusations to Los Angeles police a year ago, but they were not pursued because the statute of limitations had expired.

He said on CNN that "these women are coming out now" because "they have been extraordinarily frustrated by what they perceive to be inaction on the part of CBS and its board".

In a second statement after his departure, Moonves said he was "deeply saddened" to be leaving the company and its employees.

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