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Richard Parsons named interim board chairman at CBS, replacing Les Moonves

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Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
CBS CEO Les Moonves resigned Sept. 9, 2018, just hours after more sexual harassment allegations involving the network’s longtime leader surfaced.

NEW YORK — CBS has taken a small step in replacing Leslie Moonves, naming board member Richard Parsons the interim chairman of the company’s board, one of the positions the disgraced executive held at the broadcasting giant.

Parsons, the former chief executive of Time Warner, will inherit on a temporary basis one of three titles held by Moonves. The other two are currently held by longtime CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello, who was named president and acting chief executive two weeks ago.

Moonves left the company at that time as at least 12 women came forward in the New Yorker magazine to accuse him of sexual harassment or assault. In making that announcement the company said, “the chairman position will remain open pending the appointment of a permanent CEO.” But it appears to have reversed course.

The announcement will fuel speculation that Parsons, 70, could be given a more permanent role as the firm’s chief executive, especially since he is considered close with Shari Redstone, whose National Amusements is a controlling shareholder in CBS. The firm did not reveal any longer-term plans in Tuesday’s announcement.

Instead, Candace Beinecke, chair of CBS’s nominating and governance committee, cited Parsons’ “deep industry knowledge and unmatched corporate and board experience” in a statement. Parsons added that he is “look[ing] forward to learning more about CBS’ compelling opportunities and how we can help guide and support the company’s growth.”

Parsons is seen as an established if traditional-minded top executive who guided Time Warner through a tumultuous period coupled to AOL in the 2000s, as larger technological changes only began to roil the media space. He left the company at the end of 2007.

The executive, who has also served as interim chief executive of the Los Angeles Clippers and the chairman of Citigroup, joined the CBS board in the spring as the firm was in a battle with National Amusements — which also controls Viacom — over its independence, and was seen as one of the board’s more pro-Redstone personalities. CBS and Viacom will remain separate for at least two years, according to a legal settlement announced as part of Moonves’ departure.

Though Moonves could stand to gain as much as $120 million as part of a severance package, two outside law firms are still investigating the allegations against him, which could lower the figure or put it at the heart of a legal battle.

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