Chief among them is who the network chooses to replace Leslie Moonves as its new CEO. Moonves, previously considered one of the industry’s top executives, resigned in September after several women accused him of sexual misconduct.
Bloomberg reported that the search to bring in an official replacement has been complicated by plans to merge CBS with its sister company Viacom Inc. (VIAB), as well as a decision to interview each board member about what type of chief they’d like to lead the company.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the following six names have so far been identified as key candidates to take the reins of the embattled mass media giant.
Former Walt Disney Co. (DIS) Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs is currently the favorite to replace Moonves as CEO, people familiar with the matter told the Journal. Staggs, who left Disney in 2016 after it was made clear that he wouldn’t succeed Robert Iger as the movie studio’s new CEO, is believed to have expressed reservations about taking on the role when he was approached several weeks ago, but is said to be open to further discussions.
The Journal’s sources reported that CBS is currently exploring ways to tempt Staggs to take on the job. One possibility, they added, is to also offer him the role of executive chairman.
Should CBS fail to snag Staggs, Brian Goldner, CEO of toy and media company Hasbro Inc. (HAS), was mentioned by the Journal as another potential candidate. However, sources added that appointing Goldner, who was named one of six new independent members of CBS’s board after Moonves left the company, could also be challenging as his contract with Hasbro contains a non-compete agreement preventing him from moving to an entertainment company that is primarily directed toward children and families.
Those complications could make Jeffrey Hirsch, described by a person close to the process as another key candidate, a more feasible target. Hirsch joined Starz in 2015 from Time Warner Cable as executive vice president and chief marketing officer. During his tenure, he has been credited for re-energizing the premium cable and satellite television network, thanks to his rebranding efforts and launching of a popular TV streaming app.
Ianniello, Moonves’ right-hand man for more than a decade, is currently serving as interim CEO at CBS. At first, many believed he was destined to keep the job full-time, although recent reports have since questioned that possibility.
According to Deadline, some members of the recently revamped CBS board aren’t convinced he is the right person to lead the company. Ianniello is highly regarded for the role he played in CBS’s legal battle with controlling shareholder National Amusements. However, some members of the board are said to be concerned with his lack of experience in programming.
John Martin and Olaf Olafsson
The other two names that the Journal linked to the CEO vacancy at CBS were former senior Time Warner Inc. (TWX) executives John Martin and Olaf Olafsson. Former Turner CEO Martin and Executive Vice President Olaf Olafsson became available after AT&T Inc. (T) closed its megamerger with Time Warner.
Sources said both have had informal contact about the job.
HBO CEO Richard Plepler was also reportedly approached, but indicated that he wasn’t interested.