Les Moonves

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Les Moonves
Les Moonves at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.jpg
Les Moonves at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Woody Allen's film Whatever Works
BornLeslie Roy Moonves
(1949-10-06) October 6, 1949 (age 69)
New York City, US
ResidenceBeverly Hills, California, US
Alma materBucknell University
Net worthUS$800 million (2018)
  • Nancy Wiesenfeld
    (m. 1978; div. 2004)
  • Julie Chen (m. 2004)

Leslie Roy Moonves (/ˈmnvɛz/; born October 6, 1949) is an American media executive who served as Chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation[1][2] until he resigned on September 9, 2018 in light of allegations that he sexually abused many women.[3] He is married to Julie Chen.

He had held a series of executive positions at CBS from July 1995 to September 2018.[1] He has been on the Board of Directors at ZeniMax Media since 1999.[1] Later, he was co-President and co-Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the original Viacom, Inc., the legal predecessor to CBS Corporation, from 2004 until the company split in December 2005. He became Chairman of CBS in February 2016.[4][5][6] On September 9, 2018, Les Moonves stepped down as Chairman of CBS after multiple sexual harassment claims.

According to various media reports, Moonves has amassed a net worth of over US$800 million as a result of extremely generous compensation packages from CBS, with Moonves earning US$68.4 million in 2017, combined with stock options of the media company, worth over US$100 million. It was reported that Moonves was entitled to a severance package of over US$240 million from CBS, however, this has been suspended pending the outcome of several sexual abuse allegations against him.

Early life[edit]

Moonves was born to a Jewish family[7][8] in New York City, the son of Josephine (Schleifer) and Herman Moonves,[9][10] and grew up in Valley Stream, New York. His mother was a nurse.[11] He has one sister, Melissa Moonves Colon, and two brothers, including entertainment attorney Jonathan Moonves.[11] He attended Valley Stream Central High School and went to Bucknell University, graduating in 1971.[12] In his sophomore year he decided that his science courses were unfulfilling and switched his major from pre-medical to Spanish (a subject he found vastly more enjoyable) and acted in a few plays; following graduation in 1971 he moved to Manhattan to pursue an acting career. He landed a few parts, playing tough guys on Cannon and The Six Million Dollar Man,[13] which he described as "forgettable" TV roles, before deciding on the career change.[14] He also worked as one of casting director Caro Jones' first office assistants early in her career.[15]

Business career[edit]

Moonves was in charge of first-run syndication and pay/cable programming at 20th Century Fox Television. Also at 20th Century Fox Television, he was vice president of movies and mini-series. Other positions included vice president of development at Saul Ilson Productions (in association with Columbia Pictures Television) and development executive for Catalina Productions.[16]

Lorimar Television and Warner Bros. Television[edit]

Moonves joined Lorimar Television in 1985 as executive in charge of its movies and mini-series, and in 1988, became head of creative affairs. From 1990 to 1993, he was president at Lorimar.[17] In July 1993, he became president/CEO of Warner Bros. Television, when Warner Bros. and Lorimar Television combined operations. In this phase of his career, he green-lighted the shows Friends and ER, among many others.[14]


He joined CBS in July 1995 as President of CBS Entertainment.[18] From April 1998 until 2003, he was president and chief executive officer at CBS Television, then was promoted to chairman and CEO of CBS in 2003. In 2003, CBS had six of the ten most-watched primetime shows in the final quarter of 2005: CSI, Without a Trace, CSI: Miami, Survivor: Guatemala, NCIS, and Cold Case.[14]

In February 2005, Moonves was identified as the executive directly responsible for ordering the cancellation of UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise and the ending of the 18-year revival of the Star Trek television franchise.[19] In January 2006, Moonves helped make the deal that brought together the CBS-owned United Paramount Network (UPN) with The WB Television Network to form The CW Television Network that fall.

Moonves was the second-most highly-paid director for 2012 and 2013: he received $58.8 million[20] and $65.4 million.[21] He is considered the second-highest paid CEO, having been paid $68.4 million in 2017.[22]

In 2013, Moonves was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.[23] He became chairman of CBS in February 2016.[4][5][6]

Of the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign and the advertising dollars it delivered, Moonves said, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." He added, "Donald's place in this election is a good thing."[24]

In September 2018, following allegations of sexual assault against him, it was reported that CBS was negotiating a $100 million exit package for Moonves and that CBS Chief Operating Officer Joe Ianniello would serve as his interim replacement.[25] On September 9, 2018, CBS Corporation announced he had resigned and Joe Iannello would become interim CEO.[26] Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to the #MeToo movement that will be deducted from any severance benefits Moonves may be owed, the company said. The donation to charities promoting women’s equality in the workplace will come upon the conclusion of an independent investigation into the allegations, according to the statement.[27]

Howard Stern litigation[edit]

In February 2006, Moonves led CBS to file a $500 million lawsuit against Howard Stern for allegedly breaching his contract by failing to disclose the details of his deal with Sirius Satellite Radio while still employed by Infinity Broadcasting. Stern vowed to fight the suit, and said on his radio program that Moonves and CBS were trying to "bully" him and his agent, Don Buchwald. Stern later appeared on CBS' own Late Show with David Letterman, wearing a shirt mocking Moonves and his wife. In June 2006, Stern announced that the lawsuit had been settled. As part of the settlement, Sirius acquired the exclusive rights to all of the WXRK tapes (over two decades worth of shows) for $2 million.

ZeniMax Media[edit]

Moonves has been on the board of ZeniMax Media since its foundation in 1999, alongside his friend and ZeniMax president Ernest Del.[28] Moonves' personal investment[29] in the company has been noted, as well as his appearances at several launch parties, including for Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Rage.[30]

Sexual misconduct allegations[edit]

Moonves voiced support for the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment in the workplace,[31][32] even describing it as a "watershed moment" during a November 2017 press conference,[33] and was a founding member of the "Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace", formed in late 2017 to "tackle the broad culture of abuse and power disparity".[34][35] In January 2018, CBS Cares released public service announcements concerning how to combat sexual harassment.[36][37][38]

In July 2018, The New Yorker published an article by Ronan Farrow saying that six women accuse Moonves of harassment and intimidation, and dozens have described abuse at CBS.[39] Moonves was subsequently placed under investigation by the CBS board.[40]

In August 2018, Bucknell University removed references to Moonves on its website, and University of Southern California suspended Moonves' name from its Media Center.[41]

In September 2018, The New Yorker reported that six additional women (in addition to the six original women reported in July) had raised accusations against Moonves, going back to the 1980s.[42] Shortly after resigning as CEO of CBS, Moonves released a statement denying all of the sexual misconduct allegations.[43]

Public appearances[edit]

On April 7, 2003, Moonves portrayed himself in an episode of The Practice. From early 2004 until its end in May 2015, Moonves made regular appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman. One of these came when Letterman declared outrage that CBS featured his late-night competitor Jay Leno in an ad for CBS's telecast of the People's Choice Awards. Letterman jokingly warned the "CBS stooge in the control room" to call his buddies "before things turn ugly"; Moonves obliged. Later appearances took the same format, with Letterman discussing current events and the CBS network with the company's CEO.

On the March 23, 2015 premiere episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Moonves portrayed himself as the head of CBS who sends out a golden ticket granting whoever finds it a chance to host The Late Late Show, in an homage to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Moonves also appeared on the September 8, 2015 premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, operating a large switch he could use to switch back to reruns of The Mentalist if he was unhappy with the new program.[44]

Personal life[edit]

Moonves with his wife Julie Chen at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival

Moonves is a great-nephew of Paula Ben-Gurion, born Paula Munweis, wife of David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.[45][46] He practices Transcendental Meditation, and has said, "It puts me in a calm state, which I'm not always in."[47]

In 1978, Moonves married Nancy Wiesenfeld, with whom he has three children[48][49][50][51] including W magazine style director Sara Moonves.[52] In April 2003, Nancy Moonves filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. Nancy and Les Moonves were already living apart.[53]

In 2004, although his divorce from Nancy was not yet finalized, Moonves began dating Julie Chen, CBS' The Early Show reporter and host of the reality series Big Brother.[54] On December 10, 2004, Moonves got a court to grant an early divorce,[55] on a motion citing a "desire to return to the status of being single". Thirteen days later in Mexico, he married Chen.[54] In 2009, Chen gave birth to a son.[56]

Moonves resides in Beverly Hills, California in a house he bought from Andy Heyward.[57] He also owns residences in Malibu and New York City.[58]


In 2015, Moonves and Chen made a major donation to University of Southern California, resulting in a media center being named the "Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center." Moonves was already a USC School of Cinematic Arts' board of councilors member.[59] Previously Moonves was a University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism board member.[60]

In August 2018, Moonves was "suspended" from the USC School of Cinematic Arts' board of councilors in the wake of sex abuse allegations.[61]

In September 2018, at the same time Moonves resigned, CBS announced that Moonves and the network would be donating $20 million to #MeToo.[62][63]

See also[edit]

  • Sumner Redstone, former executive chairman of CBS and member of Redstone family which owns the majority share of CBS
  • Shari Redstone, vice-chairwoman of CBS and member of Redstone family which owns the majority share of CBS
  • Jim Lanzone, President and CEO of CBS Interactive
  • Martha Minow, law professor and CBS board member
  • David R. Andelman, lawyer and CBS board member


  1. ^ a b c "Biography from CBS Corporation website".
  2. ^ "Leslie Moonves Interview". "Archive of American Television".
  3. ^ McCarthy, Tyler (9 September 2018). "CBS chief Les Moonves steps down amid sexual misconduct allegations". Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  4. ^ a b Brian Steinberg. "Leslie Moonves Named CBS Chairman, Replacing Sumner Redstone". Variety. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Sumner Redstone resigns as CBS executive chairman, replaced by Leslie Moonves". Los Angeles Times. February 3, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Sumner Redstone Steps Down as CBS Chairman, Replaced by Leslie Moonves". The New York Times. February 4, 2016. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  7. ^ CNN Money: "Leslie Moonves's Role of a Lifetime. The former actor excels at spotting talent and picking shows. Now he has to sell Wall Street on CBS stock" By Devin Leonard April 10, 2006 |"Moonves joked afterward. "You know, this is my tenth time playing Carnegie Hall. I believe that is a new record for a Jew without an instrument."
  8. ^ Financial Post: "Lawrence Solomon: The Jewish press and Israel" by Lawrence Solomon November 30, 2012
  9. ^ "Biography". Scribd.
  10. ^ Brook, Vincent. From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 15.
  11. ^ a b Barnes, Mike. Hollywood Reporter: "Josephine Moonves, Mother of CBS' Leslie Moonves, Dies at 92", The Hollywood Reporter, July 18, 2016.
  12. ^ Leslie Moonves '71 to Receive Honorary Degree at Commencement from the Bucknell University website
  13. ^ Les Moonves on IMDb
  14. ^ a b c Leslie Moonves's Role of a Lifetime Money via CNN.com. Retrieved April 10, 2006.
  15. ^ Barnes, Mike (September 10, 2009). "Casting director Caro Jones dies". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved September 20, 2009.
  16. ^ "Biography from CBS Corporation website". Archived from the original on February 26, 2008.
  17. ^ John Lippman (October 11, 1990). "Moonves Takes Over Helm of Lorimar". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Bill Carter (August 18, 1998). "CBS Fills President's Post At Entertainment Division". The New York Times. Retrieved August 22, 2012. CBS named Nancy Tellem president of the network's entertainment division yesterday, the position vacated in April by her longtime associate, Leslie Moonves, who is now the chief executive of CBS Television.
  19. ^ "UPN Cancels 'Star Trek: Enterprise'". Trektoday.com. February 2, 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  20. ^ Prisma Media (May 16, 2013). "Les grands patrons de mieux en mieux payés aux Etats-Unis". Capital.fr.
  21. ^ "CEO Compensation Histogram Chart — Business Insider". Business Insider. May 28, 2014.
  22. ^ "CBS investigating sexual misconduct claims against CEO Les Moonves". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Associated Press. July 27, 2018. Retrieved July 28, 2018. Moonves was the No. 2 highest paid CEO of a major public company in 2017, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm. He made $68.4 million US last year
  23. ^ "Television Hall of Fame Honorees: Complete List".
  24. ^ Bond, Paul (February 29, 2016). "Leslie Moonves on Donald Trump: "It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 17, 2016. he likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network. "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," he said of the presidential race.
  25. ^ Faber, David. "CBS board offering CEO Moonves $100 million in stock as exit package: Sources". CNBC. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  26. ^ "Leslie Moonves departs as chief of CBS, financial package to be withheld pending investigation". CBS News. Retrieved September 10, 2018.
  27. ^ "Les Moonves Leaves CBS, Will Make $20 Million Donation To Me Too Movement". 9 September 2018. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  28. ^ Sterngold, James (September 24, 1998). "Kick-Starting (Kapow!) a TV Series; CBS Broke All the Rules to Fling an Action Show at Young Men". The New York Times.
  29. ^ "ZeniMax Media raises $9.9 million from some big names — VentureBeat — Deals — by Dean Takahashi". venturebeat.com.
  30. ^ "Leslie Moonves Pictures — "Rage" Video Game Launch — Zimbio". Zimbio.
  31. ^ Jayme Deerwester; Andrea Mandell (July 27, 2018). "Leslie Moonves accused of sexually harassing six women in New Yorker piece". USA Today. Retrieved July 28, 2018. A public proponent of the #MeToo movement, Moonves
  32. ^ Eric Lutz (July 28, 2018). "CBS exec Les Moonves accused of sexual misconduct in latest Ronan Farrow bombshell". Mic. Retrieved July 28, 2018. Moonves has also been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement
  33. ^ "Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct". Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  34. ^ Wattles, Jackie (December 16, 2017). "Hollywood execs name Anita Hill to lead anti-harassment effort". CNNMoney. Cable News Network. Retrieved July 30, 2018. Among the list of the commission's members are:... -- Les Moonves, chairman/CEO of CBS Corp
  35. ^ Cara Buckley (December 15, 2017). "Anita Hill to Lead Hollywood Commission on Sexual Harassment". The New York Times. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  36. ^ "Watch CBS Cares: #ThatsHarassment: The Boss - Full show on CBS All Access". CBS. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  37. ^ "CBS Cares - Recognizing Sexual Harassment". www.msn.com. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  38. ^ "Watch CBS Cares: #ThatsHarassment: The Coworker - Full show on CBS All Access". CBS. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  39. ^ Farrow, Ronan (August 6, 2018). "Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  40. ^ Flint, Joe; Hagey, Keach (July 28, 2018). "CBS to Investigate Allegations of Sexual Harassment Against CEO Moonves". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 30, 2018.
  41. ^ "USC Annenberg suspends use of Les Moonves' name on media center". CBS News. The Associated Press. August 2, 2018. Retrieved August 2, 2018. Moonves' alma mater, Bucknell University, has also removed some references to him from its website.
  42. ^ Ronan Farrow. "As Leslie Moonves Negotiates His Exit from CBS, Women Raise New Assault and Harassment Claims". The New Yorker. Retrieved September 9, 2018. Six additional women are now accusing Moonves of sexual harassment or assault in incidents that took place between the nineteen-eighties and the early aughts. They include claims that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex on him, that he exposed himself to them without their consent, and that he used physical violence and intimidation against them. A number of the women also said that Moonves retaliated after they rebuffed him, damaging their careers.
  43. ^ "The Latest: CBS' Leslie Moonves denies wrongdoing". Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  44. ^ Worland, Justin (September 9, 2015). "Watch Stephen Colbert Joke With CEO of CBS About Canceling His Show". Time.com. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  45. ^ "Throng Thrills to Thomashefsky's Titillating Tales".
  46. ^ JSpace: "All in the Family: Les Moonves is Grandnephew of Ben Gurion Archived April 11, 2013, at Archive.is October 6, 2011
  47. ^ Battaglio, Stephen (February 24, 2016). "How Leslie Moonves continues to guide CBS to the top of the TV industry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 17, 2016. Moonves cools down by practicing Transcendental Meditation several times a week. ... 'I do it right before I go to sleep,' he said. 'It puts me in a calm state, which I'm not always in.'
  48. ^ "Michael Samuel Moonves, Born February 9, 1988 in California - CaliforniaBirthIndex.org". www.californiabirthindex.org.
  49. ^ "Sara Anne Moonves, Born November 26, 1984 in California - CaliforniaBirthIndex.org". www.californiabirthindex.org.
  50. ^ "NY Daily News – Daily Dish – Rush & Molloy: Moonves' marriage may get an airing" from the New York Daily News "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 23, 2003. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  51. ^ Interfaith Family: "Interfaith Celebrities: The Talk's Hosts and David Schwimmers Bride" By Nate Bloom. October 26, 2010 |"Moonves, who is Jewish, began an affair with Chen while still married to his first (Jewish) wife, who is the mother of his three older children"
  52. ^ Horgan, Richard (July 20, 2017). "Les Moonves' Daughter Sara Is Headed to W Magazine". AdWeek. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  53. ^ "Moonves' Marriage May Get An Airing". Daily News. New York.
  54. ^ a b "'Big Brother' host Julie Chen marries CBS president Les Moonves". Realitytvworld.com. December 29, 2004. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  55. ^ "Moonves: "I Want To Get On With My Life"". The Smoking Gun.
  56. ^ "It's a Boy for Julie Chen". CBS News. September 24, 2009.
  57. ^ "Los Angeles real estate news, data and statistics, home sales and real estate listings — Los Angeles". blockshopper.com.
  58. ^ Mark David (April 14, 2014). "CBS President Les Moonves Lists Malibu Starter House". Variety.
  59. ^ BRIAN LOWRY (February 25, 2015). "USC Media Center Named For CBS' Leslie Moonves, Julie Chen". Variety. Retrieved August 2, 2018. Moonves attended Bucknell University and is a member of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors.
  60. ^ "USC Annenberg Media Center Named for Julie Chen, Leslie Moonves". Philanthropy News Digest. March 2, 2015. Retrieved August 2, 2018. Moonves is a member of the USC School of Cinematic Arts' board and a past member of the USC Annenberg board.
  61. ^ Bitran, Tara (August 1, 2018). "USC School of Cinematic Arts Suspends Leslie Moonves From Board". variety.com. Retrieved September 7, 2018.
  62. ^ "Les Moonves resigns from CBS after sexual misconduct allegations". BBC News. September 10, 2018. Retrieved September 10, 2018. CBS said the company and Mr Moonves would donate $20m (£15.4m) to groups supporting the #MeToo movement.
  63. ^ Tom McCarthy (September 10, 2018). "Les Moonves resigns from CBS after six more women accuse him of sexual harassment". The Guardian. Retrieved September 10, 2018. Moonves and CBS will donate $20m to one or more organisations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace. This donation will be deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves following the investigation.

External links[edit]

Business positions
Preceded by
Peter Tortorici
President of CBS
Succeeded by
Nancy Tellem