Veteran Media Exec Richard Parsons Named Interim Board Chairman at CBS

Broadcasting giant CBS Corp. has named veteran media executive Richard Parsons interim chairman of its board, as part of a broader shakeup following the resignation of Chief Executive Leslie Moonves.

The appointment, announced Tuesday night, comes roughly two weeks after Moonves agreed to step down as the New York television company’s chairman and chief executive. He resigned Sept. 9 after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct in articles published by the New Yorker.

CBS also said that two of its long-serving board members, Bruce Gordon and William Cohen, had decided to step down. They both have been on the board since 2006, when CBS became a stand-alone company after its split with Viacom Inc.

Gordon, a former Verizon executive and former head of the NAACP, played a pivotal role in negotiations that resulted in Moonves’ resignation and ended a lawsuit between CBS and the Redstone family over control of the company.

As part of a deal reached earlier this month, CBS agreed to drop a lawsuit against the Redstone family investment vehicle, National Amusements Inc., that had been scheduled to go to trial in Delaware in October. The agreement also called for a dramatic makeover of the CBS board, with six new directors who are not aligned with the Redstone family.

Parsons, 70, a former chairman of Citigroup and Time Warner Inc., was nominated to CBS’ board earlier this year. He was seen as an ally of Shari Redstone, who had advocated for reuniting CBS with Viacom, the other media company her family controls. CBS board members balked at the idea, sparking a legal fight.

As chief executive of Time Warner, Parsons helped the media company recover from its ill-fated union with internet pioneer AOL. He left Time Warner in 2007.

He is co-founder and partner of Imagination Capital, a venture capital firm that launched in November. He also was interim chief executive of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team for a few months in 2014.

“Dick Parsons has a combination of deep industry knowledge and unmatched corporate and board experience,” said Candace Beinecke, chair of CBS’ Nominating and Governance Committee, in a statement. “We are fortunate to have Dick in this leadership role.”

CBS’ board unanimously approved Parsons’ appointment, the company said.

One of the major tasks of the newly reconfigured board will be to decide whether Moonves is entitled to receive any of the benefits of his most recent contract.

CBS said it set aside $120 million as a potential severance for Moonves, who left without any immediate payout. But if investigators find that Moonves should be fired for cause, he may not receive any severance.

CBS’ board has retained two law firms to investigate claims from multiple women who have accused Moonves of sexual misconduct. Moonves has disputed claims that he made unwanted advances or retaliated against women.

The board must also decide on a permanent replacement for Moonves. Joseph Ianniello, who was CBS’ chief operating officer until Moonves’ exit, is serving as president and acting chief executive while the search for a new leader proceeds.

(Article written by Ryan Faughnder)