The fact is, the ouster of Leslie Moonves from CBS was never in doubt, ever since the first Ronan Farrow story about his (alleged) sexual misconduct was published in The New Yorker in late July.
The questions were always “when” and “how,” not “if.”
And now, the timing of Moonves’ exit -- which was effective immediately on Sunday evening upon the release of the announcement by CBS Corp. at a little after 7 p.m. that night -- is likely due to another Farrow story posted on the New Yorker Web site earlier on Sunday.
This story has six more women making accusations against Moonves. Some of the testimony is very graphic.
Even before the story was published, news reports had circulated over the weekend and late last week that the CBS board and others were hard at work hammering out a multifaceted solution to the various struggles that the company had been dealing with for the last few months.
These were the dueling lawsuits filed by CBS and Viacom as both companies became embroiled in a power struggle between Moonves and Shari Redstone, and subsequently the problem of Moonves himself, whose ability to lead CBS going forward was damaged irreparably by the Farrow revelations about Moonves’ conduct.
The stories about the negotiations indicated that a conclusion was near. Lo and behold, the announcement came on Sunday night: CBS had taken care of all family business -- settled the lawsuits, removed Moonves and reconfigured the Board of Directors (replacing six members with six new ones).
The news release from CBS was comprehensive and detailed, except for one thing: It did not mention the follow-up New Yorker story about Moonves that had been published that afternoon, although the release did say that the two independent investigations CBS commissioned to look into Moonves’ history with women in the workplace were ongoing.
The release also said Moonves’ compensation for exiting will depend on the outcome of the investigations.
However, news reports Sunday night all positioned Moonves’ “immediate” departure as having been brought on by the new story in The New Yorker. It is a credible scenario.
CBS officials probably knew such a story was in the works and likely to be published imminently. So they worked even more feverishly to solve their Moonves problem and the CBS-Viacom battle so that the timing would align with the story’s publication.
Give or take a few hours, that is exactly what happened. Moonves’ departure comes one week before this year’s Emmy Awards next Monday on NBC (September 17) and two weeks before the official start of the new fall TV season a week after that.
For those of us on the outside, the imagery of the aftermath of this drama goes like this: Moonves in rolled-up shirt sleeves toting cardboard file boxes of personal effects from his office to his car down in the CBS parking lot Sunday night, Shari Redstone pinching herself in disbelief that she won this showdown with Moonves, and rank-and-file employees at CBS wondering if all the drama at the top will somehow trickle down to them.
As of Monday morning, all signs of Moonves, who had worked at CBS since 1995, had been scrubbed from the CBS corporate Web site.