CBS CEO could make millions by leaving company amid sexual harassment allegations

Half a dozen women have accused Les Moonves of sexual harassment. He could make bank anyway.

CBS CEO Les Moonves could make $200 million if he leaves the network in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. CREDIT; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic
CBS CEO Les Moonves could make $200 million if he leaves the network in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. CREDIT; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic

CBS CEO Les Moonves stands to make nearly $200 million if he leaves the network amidst sexual harassment allegations, a CBS News review of Moonves’ contract revealed Tuesday.

According to the CBS News report, Moonves signed a contract last May to remain in his role through June of 2021. Should he be fired “without cause,” his severance package includes $92.5 million in cash, stock worth about $57.4 million, health and life insurance benefits worth more than $877,000, and a pension benefit worth nearly $999,000.

Additionally, CBS would be required to provide Moonves with office space and a personal secretary through the end of his contract, and Moonves would be allowed to remain on as an “adviser and producer” as CBS. If he chose not to work as an adviser and producer, he would get an additional payout of up to $25 million.

In total, the package is worth about $176 million, according to CBS’s calculations, assuming CBS fires him without a reason, something the network has a right to do. Moonves can also choose to leave CBS if the company gives him “good reason,” which would include not being reelected to the board, being required to live somewhere other than New York or Los Angeles, or having his salary or target bonus reduced.


Moonves leaving for “good reason” would mean his cash severance would be reduced by $2 million, but the rest would remain the same, Tuesday’s report revealed.

In the wake of a New Yorker report detailing allegations of sexual harassment, CBS hired two law firms to investigate the claims, but Moonves has not been suspended. One expert told CBS that perhaps the reason the board did not suspend Moonves during the investigation was so as not to give Moonves “good reason” to depart.

The board can, however, terminate Moonves “for cause,” a designation which includes a felony conviction, fraud, disclosure of confidential material that harms the company, and violating company policy, including sexual harassment. If they did so, Moonves would receive no severance, but he would receive any bonus or already-vested stock.

The speculation about Moonves’s possible exit from CBS comes after The New Yorker published a story detailing allegations from six women who said they had been sexually harassed or assaulted by Moonves. Four said he had forcibly touched or kissed them, and two said he had physically intimidated them and threatened to ruin their careers.

All of the women in the New Yorker story said Moonves became cold and hostile when they rejected his advances, and that they believe their careers suffered because they rejected him.


Though Moonves’ potential exit package is particularly large, he’s hardly the only accused sexual harasser guaranteed millions should he leave the company. Former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly left Fox News with a $25 million exit package after it was revealed he had paid about about $13 million in sexual harassment settlements.

Fox CEO and founder Roger Ailes also left the network with a hefty $40 million package. Ailes, too, was pushed out after it was revealed that he had paid a number of settlements to women at the network, including $20 million to former anchor Gretchen Carlson.