Exclusive: CBS CEO Moonves, facing sexual misconduct probe, plans to answer analysts' questions

CBS honcho Les Moonves is planning to speak on the company's earnings call on Thursday, the latest indication that the embattled CEO plans to maintain a public profile amid an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations, the Fox Business Network has learned.

Continue Reading Below

The news, after first being reported by Fox Business, spiked shares of CBS as much as 2.28 percent in early afternoon trading. Shares of CBS ended the day at $52.67, up 2.71% in the New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

Of course, the company may decide at the last minute to pull Moonves, handing over the duties to the other two executives who deal with analysts' questions during earnings calls: Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianiello and Adam Townsend, investor relations chief, the CBS insider added.

But the plan -- as of now -- is to allow him to appear on the call and take analysts' questions, these people add. Aides to Moonves are now prepping him for questions about the sexual misconduct allegations, detailed on Friday in a lengthy New Yorker piece, though it's unclear how much detail Moonves will provide if asked about the matter, insiders say.

Meanwhile, Moonves has not been hiding since the New Yorker article was published; he was conspicuously spotted at the tony Malibu restaurant, Nobu, with his wife Julie Chen, according tothe New York Post, and on Thursday he plans to make himself available to Wall Street analysts when the company announces second-quarter earnings, people inside the company tell Fox Business.

Company officials have sought to assuage investor concerns by launching an internal investigation into the matter and allowing Moonves to remain at the helm while the inquiry proceeds.

“The board kept him on as CEO and this is part of his duties as CEO,” said one CBS insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss company matters with the media. “So the plan right now is for him to appear on the call with analysts.”

A company spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

In The New Yorker piece, written by investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, six women in the entertainment business said that the media executive sexually harassed them over the past three decades, with the last incident occurring around 2006.

Four of the women accused Moonves of “forcible touching or kissing during business meetings," in what they said appeared to be a practiced routine, while two said he “physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.”

Moonves, for his part, released a statement saying, “I recognize that there were times decades ago when I may have made some women uncomfortable by making advances. Those were mistakes, and I regret them immensely. But I always understood and respected – and abided by the principle – that ‘no’ means ‘no,’ and I have never misused my position to harm or hinder anyone's career.”

On Monday, at a regularly scheduled meeting, CBS’s board decided to allow Moonves to remain at the company through the conclusion of the independent inquiry. Still, Moonves' job remains in jeopardy even as he attempts to act like it's business as usual at CBS, and new allegations could force the board’s hand and lead to Moonves’ immediate dismissal, people at the company concede.

The controversy has also rankled senior management and the board because there is no possible successor with the stature Moonves holds on Wall Street and in media circles, raising doubts about Moonves’ plan to break CBS away from the Redstone family’s National Amusements holding company and ultimately sell CBS to a technology company, a telecom giant or a larger media outfit, the people add.

National Amusements holds the majority of the voting shares of CBS, and its president, Shari Redstone, wants to merge CBS with the other media company she and her family controls, Viacom. Analysts believe a weakened Moonves could make it more likely that Redstone will eventually get her way and merge the two companies -- an outcome that many investors believe will be bad for CBS shareholders since it’s considered to have far superior programming than Viacom.

CBS programming includes a news outlet, television programming and major sports like the NFL. Viacom is known for fading franchises such as MTV and Nickelodeon. A spokeswoman for National Amusements had no immediate comment.

People inside CBS say Moonves believes a sale of CBS will achieved easier.