CBS Corporation shares spiked in midday trading and at the Closing Bell were up 3.1%, to $54.62, thanks to rampant speculation that embattled CEO Les Moones has been offered a $100 million exit package by the company’s Board of Directors.
The gains accelerated in the 11am Eastern hour, following a report by CNBC that cites “people close to the negotiations” who told the financial news network that the CBS board “is deep in settlement talks” with Moonves.
His departure would put COO Joe Ianniello in the interim CEO role while giving controlling shareholder National Amusements Inc., led by Shari Redstone, the ability to merge CBS with Viacom and place that company’s head, Bob Bakish, in a top executive role at the reunified entity — should such a scenario transpire.
NAI has said no, and is fighting CBS Corp. in a Delaware Chancery Court over actions by the CBS board to dilute NAI’s voting power — a move designed to thwart any recombination of Viacom and CBS.
That case could come to an end soon, with out-of-court settlement discussions reportedly taking place.
Meanwhile, improper behavior by Moonves and sexual misconduct allegations that have arisen in recent weeks have clouded the chief executive, with lurid details provided in early August by writer Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker.
CNBC’s sources indicate that the CBS board and Moonves have been negotiating an exit package for some time. The offer currently in front of Moonves is largely comprised of CBS stock. Should the sexual harassment allegations against Moonves be proven to be true, this exit package would be reduced in value, CBS proposes.
So far, CBS has not offered any comment on the matter. The sources tell CNBC that the NAI lawsuit is not tied to the Moonves exit package.