Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Les Moonves mess

It is worth really following the Les Moonves saga as it unfolds. There have been numerous grand poobahs in the industry who have fallen from grace as a result of #MeToo. Harvey Weinstein, Louis CK, Charlie Rose, Matt Lauer, Bill O'Reilly, Roger Ailes, Kevin Spacey, Jeffrey Tambor, various producers, showrunners, and on-air talent.

But this one is different.

When Harvey Weinstein was brought down it was a huge story. Here was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood dethroned and exposed. But see, here’s the thing: His company was losing money. He no longer had the clout he once had. And as a result, his inglorious exit from the business had little or no affect on it.

Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose were high profile personalities. Their shows didn’t nose dive upon their departures. Kevin Spacey was removed from a movie he had already shot and his replacement received an Academy Award nomination. Spacey’s TV series goes on without him.

Ah, but CBS…

Les Moonves has done a spectacular job of leading CBS. And with the current corporate showdown with Viacom, his presence at the helm is more vital now than ever. Les Moonves has made a lot of money for the shareholders. And CONTINUES to make a lot of money. So it’s not so easy for the board to just say, “We’re shocked! We can’t have this! He has to go! Banish him!” No. The absolute last thing the board wants to do is replace Les Moonves.

On the other hand, the case against him appears strong enough that if he’s not removed there will be public outrage. Does the CBS board want to weather that shitstorm?

If Les steps down would CBS collapse? Of course not. Their stock will dip and my guess is creatively the organization will suffer considerably. The stock has already gone down 11% since Friday. There is no succession plan in place. So things will be chaotic. But CBS will survive. Apple has done okay since Steve Jobs passed away. Disney didn’t disappear after Walt went the way of Bambi's mother. And there’s still Warner Brothers without, well… the Warner brothers.

But this is a big test for Hollywood.  Money vs. principles. 

The CBS Board yesterday voted not to act on the matter, instead saying they would select outside counsel to conduct an investigation and then determine their course of action. In other words, it buys them time. They could either work out an exit strategy or find some way to excuse the charges and go forward with Les. And buying time puts distance on the story. In another month Trump will undoubtedly do something else appalling or idiotic and the country will be up in arms over that. Or, by that time, he will have done seven heinous things.

So stay tuned. There is obviously more to this story.

Julie Chen, by the way, is standing by her husband. Of course CBS is the network that aired THE GOOD WIFE.

40 comments :

David P said...

"In another month Trump will undoubtedly do something else appalling or idiotic..."

A month?

BobinVT said...

I chuckled a little bit at the mention of money versus principles. If they keep him and weather the storm as you say, it will be because of money. But if they get rid of him, it will also be because of money.

VP81955 said...

Moonves reportedly exerted more than the usual control over CBS programming and schedule. He probably never claimed to have a "golden gut," a la the glory days of Fred Silverman, but his emphasis on the 25-54 demographic as opposed to the 18-49 preferred elsewhere probably had much to do with CBS success in multi-cams with producers such as Chuck Lorre. The multi-cam won't go if he goes, but new leadership at CBS might not be as keen on the format, preferring the hipper single-cam style.

Also, sad to hear Alan Alda say today that he's diagnosed with Parkinson's at 82. None of us go through this journey unscathed, and he thankfully intends to remain active. I wish him well.

Michael said...

I had not heard about Alan Alda but I can say, with my family dealing with Parkinson's, that it isn't a death sentence and if he is otherwise healthy and has the right medication and treatment, he has a lot of road left to travel.

As for Les Moonves, let's not forget the 60 Minutes angle. We already had Steve Kroft with a sex scandal that's too yucky to read about. I'm sure Lesley Stahl won a lot of friends by defending her boss. And in ye olden days of Don Hewitt, Mike Wallace, and Harry Reasoner, the 60 Minutes office was chauvinism central.

VincentS said...

Excellent points, Ken. It reminds me of two lines from William Goldman's (NOT Robert Redford and Alan Pakula's!) brilliant screenplay for ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN: "Follow the money," and "When you've got them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow."

blinky said...

Apple has literally made a ton of money since Steve left but innovation has stalled. They have put all their apples in the phone basket. Don't be surprised if in 5 years Apple does a Microsoft and shrinks by half.

Anthony Hoffman said...

Don’t forget Andy Rooney! On second thought, erase him completely.

Peter said...

Sorry to hear the news about Alan Alda. He's a fantastic actor. MASH was before my time but I've greatly enjoyed his roles in various films. I thought he was especially brilliant in The Aviator. I hope whatever treatment is available can keep him healthy for as long as possible. May he have many more years ahead of him.

E. Yarber said...

As long as the subject is momentarily computers, I have to note I am operating for a few days on a 2010 laptop while my regular one is receiving open-drive surgery. It's amazing how many sites refuse to admit this system exists. Seems like it's impossible to stick with a single machine without swiftly becoming obsolete, which is why I had to have the other one refurbished.

Moonves surprised me. Usually the awful behavior I've observed comes from people who are Nouveau riche in the business, so to speak, trying to live up to what they consider the perks of a career they don't really have... assistants, junior executives. The ones who survive have to have a little more internal discipline. Of course, I wasn't around during the days of cocaine excess, nor would I want to have been.

Bob said...

What ????? Warner Bros are dead !!!?? Both of them!!!! 😢

You forgot to mention Dustin Hoffman. One of the greatest actors who ever walked on our planet.

I am sad that he wont be part of any of the masterpieces anymore 😢



Anonymous said...

@ VincentS
"Follow the money" is the HOF quote from Goldman, so good most people don't know it's a movie quote.
But the "hearts and minds" quote was around long before ATPM. Charles Colson had it on a plaque on his wall, but he got it form somebody else. It's a real, as opposed to a movie, quote.

Leslie said...

The double standard of Stephen Colbert. Rabid venom for others but kid gloves for his boss.

ScarletNumber said...

If companies would just stop folding to public demands for heads on platters, the controversy would eventually go away.

E. Yarber said...

I have to admit there's an up-side to using this old laptop. Half the news sites I've visited this morning are running stories in which Obama is still president.

gottacook said...

How could Roger Ailes possibly have "fallen from grace"? He would have had to get there in the first place, right?

www.theguardian.com/media/2017/may/18/roger-ailes-career-history-nixon-fox-news

McAlvie said...

I hope the controversy never goes away. I hope the heads keep rolling with enough regularity to stop such behavior from being Business As Usual ever again.

I will never cease to be amazed by the courage of women. We cheer the ones who speak out but it has to take a lot of guts to go out into the world at all when you know the other half of the population is bigger and stronger, and has all the power.

Janet Ybarra said...

Parkinson's can be a tricky thing and can manifest in different ways for different people. I knew someone who struggled with the disease for about a quarter century and it was it was a real struggle for her. On the other hand, Michael J Fox apparently gets by better.

At any rate, what I read today, he has a phenomenal attitude and is to be super commended and supported.

All good thoughts and wishes...

Peter said...

Michael, I wasn't familiar with the Steve Kroft story. I just googled it. I have to admit some of the details made me laugh.

That's ONE way to drink champagne, I guess.

Craig Russll said...

"Apple has done okay since Steve Jobs passed away. Disney didn’t disappear after Walt went the way of Bambi's mother. And there’s still Warner Brothers without, well… the Warner brothers."

Only difference--all those companies moved on after their leaders died. Not after they were accused of what Moonves has been accused of. AND OF COURSE Julie Chen and Colbert have taken their respective positions. They like money, too.

Frank - "So dedicated...so noble. Wouldnt dirty your hands with money"
Hawkeye - " Are you serial Frank? I come from a long line of money-grubbers.
My great-grandfather, Tombstone Pierce, made his fortune selling whiskey and hors d'oeuvres to the Indians." Mail Call, MASH.

God Speed AA

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Agree with Craig Russell: all those companies had notice. Steve Jobs had been sick for several years, and had already taken one leave of absence. There was a plan and known successors. If CBS really has no plan, that's pretty shocking. Obviously they didn't expect *this*, but any company that's dependent on its CEO has to be prepared because *anything* might happen to him.

E. Yarber: Ever thought of running LInux?

wg

Robert Forman said...

I would point out that Disney came very close to being sold for its parts during the 80’s. I know how difficult to believe that is based on how gigantic the company is today. There is a book that details what happened entitled “Storming The Magic Kingdom Wall Street, The Raiders, And The Battle For Disney”. Super interesting and written in a way that helps you understand a bunch of stuff about the corporate world without making your eyes glaze over. The problem for Disney was that they were pretty much rudderless without Walt. Too much “What would Walt want” and none of the genius that he had for jumping in to new things. So the company became stagnant and a target for the corporate raiders of the 80’s who cared not a whit for its history and saw only the untapped value. The story of how the company was saved is very compelling.
Steve Jobs was very aware of what happened with Disney and very much wanted to avoid what happened to the company when Walt Disney died. And thus there was a succession plan in place. Note that when he was deposed the company came very close to dying. When he left with his chosen successor in place the company has continued to grow.

YEKIMI said...

Not excusing their behavior, if they actually did such stuff, but how much of this "me too" stuff could be by people/companies that may be wanting to acquire or merge with said company. After all, what better way to drive a stock price down of a company you're trying to buy then to sling mud at the top brass or network "stars". That way you just have to wait till the price slides enough that you can either reduce the price you're offering or gobble it up at "fire sale" prices or drive it into bankruptcy and get it dirt cheap if you win the bidding war for whatever assets are left. After all, there is that vicious feud going on between Viacom & CBS. { https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/shari-redstone-weighs-options-merge-cbs-viacom-sell-go-shopping-1117498 }. And if it turns out to be true that they did do the things they are accused of, then they should be publicly castrated, tossed in jail and have an "open for entry" tattooed just above their ass with an arrow pointing down.

VincentS said...

Sorry to be cynical but you can bet the ranch that Julie Chen has already seen a lawyer!

VincentS said...

ANONYMOUS - Nevertheless, it's from the screenplay. Goldman didn't originally write it - as he didn't the source material - but he gets chops for deciding to include it.

MikeN said...

EYarber, clear the browser cache.

Leslie, David Letterman joked about Moonves meeting Castro.("I kill protesters." "The Bette Midler Show was my idea." Les shut Dave down.

Ken, consider whether Trump is the source of all these stories. He knew about Schneiderman. Is it a stretch to think he knew about Harvey and Les and Matt Lauer, and did all this to go after his Hollywood critics?

E. Yarber said...

I did consider Linux when I first got my laptop, given that it's a stable format and I hate having to even change linen. However, you either have to know how to do that stuff or know someone who does, and I fit into neither category. Imagine Jerry Lewis with a Waring Blender and you have a pretty accurate picture of my computer tech skills. My system jammed when I tried to install an update incompatible with the hard drive. To me, these things are just typewriters with optional pornography.

Luckily, there was a shop four bus stops away that specializes in just my model. In fact, the owner was complimenting me on the quality of my vintage laptop like I had come to an auto mechanic with a 1964 Austin Martin that still ran. I talked to him on the phone this afternoon and he said I could pick up my demon box tomorrow, adding that it should run like clockwork for another ten years with the stuff they're putting in it, at about 1/8 the price of buying a new one. I may yet look into Linux, though so far I haven't availed myself of it (or pornography).

Peter said...

I watched the latest Who is America? in which Sacha Baron Cohen in the guise of the Israeli character Erran Morad talks to Roy Moore, the despicable pervert who sleazed after a 14 year old as well as assaulted various women. If you haven't watched it yet, here it is.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kaJaDx51iw

It's absolutely hilarious. Moore does not like it when Cohen implies he's a paedophile and he cuts the interview short.

Cohen is truly remarkable. He's actually ended the career of Jason Spencer, who resigned after he appeared in the show showing his buttocks, screaming the N word and biting into a fake penis. No other comedian can say they actually brought down a political career.

Janet Ybarra said...

The question would be what the pre-nup looks like.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. All the Moonves stuff happened a long time ago, when he was young - and stupid, and probably before he was married. It just looks likes someone is out to get him (and I don't think its Trump).

RF Burns said...

The earliest incidents reported in the New Yorker piece happened when Moonves was in his thirties, and married. The episode related by Illeana Douglas allegedly took place when Moonves was nearly fifty (and still married).

The "young and stupid" excuse simply does not work. This was a guy who treated women like shit because he knew he could get away with it.

Anonymous said...

All of these comments are from people that have never had any connection to Les and his behavior over the years. If they had been around him they would know that, just like Harvey, Farrow's reporting was right on the button. There is no way that Les and his womanizing ways go back just 20 years. How about his behavior at Warner Brothers in the heyday of coke and fucking anything that moved. He is a really bad guy who deserves everything he gets except his ridiculous pay package for running the simplest of media companies. Does anybody really believe that Julie Chen is the only women that was force to sleep with him to get a job? The damage Les has done to so many people in the business over petty vindictiveness is incomprehensible. If you kiss his ring you get to keep your job. Challenge him in any way and he will go out of his way to prevent you from working in this town. Although not proven, I'm confident that he has broken laws to prevent people from gaining employment after pushing him the wrong way. in the endI hope he goes down in flames and rots in hell with all of his money and his complicit wife right next to him.

I'm amazed that Ken, of all people, did not offer a stronger rebuke of Les' behavior towards women, which is legendary and has been on-going for his entire career. Les has also crushed many mens careers over the years just because they challenged his abusive behavior. He does not have a heart and has always been only about Les. Isn't it interesting that he has left CBS without a succession plan at the age of 68. Why would that be? Maybe because he thinks he is going to live forever and CBS would continue to overpay him by millions every year to put NCIS Santa Barbra on the air.

Time to say goodbye and good riddance to one of the all time bad human beings in this or any business!

D McEwan said...

"Disney didn’t disappear after Walt went the way of Bambi's mother."

Walt Disney was shot by hunters? And here I thought it was his own smoking that took him out.

"Anonymous Leslie said...
The double standard of Stephen Colbert. Rabid venom for others but kid gloves for his boss."


Actually, I thought that, given that Moonves IS his boss, he was remarkably hard on him last night. I've never seen a network head hit that hard on the air by his own employee since the days of Letterman savaging GE. I thought Colbert showed guts last night, while mining comedy from the danger of criticizing a man who could snap his fingers and Colbert is off the air.

But then maybe, "Anonymous Leslie," you are secretly grinding someone else's ax for them? Perhaps someone orange who writhes under Colbert's whip nightly?

Pat Reeder said...

"But this is a big test for Hollywood. Money vs. principles."

Ken, if Kelsey Grammer does revive "Frasier," I really hope he'll let you write it because you obviously are still the king of the hilarious one-liners!

Don K. said...

I will second Mr. McEwan. I too thought Colbert did not pull any punches. He distinctly said "everyone must be held accountable". What more would you have Colbert say?

Wendy M. Grossman said...

E. Yarber: I'm glad you've found a solution. I will say that I recently had occasion to reinstall Linux, and I was impressed by how easy it's become. There are some exceptions (I wrote a posting about this if you're interested), but it really pretty much is a computer in a downloadable file. It does pay to check hardware compatibility first, though. :)

wg

E. Yarber said...

I don't mean to go on too long about this computer thing, but I will add that the current fix seems to be as good as I could possibly expect. They're forestalling any potential hard drive problems by installing a solid state system, and I'll still have a complete roster of side ports as well as a disc drive so I can continue consulting COMPLETE NEW YORKER DVD-ROMS as well as burn music mixes for unsuspecting victims. No need to add the machine to all the discarded electronic devices in landfills.

Will see the results later today. If all goes well with the repair and I ever sell whatever the hell I'm soliciting this week, I'll take Gramps Laptop here over to those guys for a visit to the Fountain of Youth as well. Will Google for the Linux Post. May be easier to try it than ever now.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

E. Yarber: to save you the time: https://www.pelicancrossing.net/netwars/2018/05/the_third_penguin.html

wg

Scott said...

Not to mention the Warner Sister, Dot.

MikeN said...

EYarber, as long as Ken is allowing hijacking of threads for computers, let me say that you can put Linux on a DVD and boot from that to test it out.

Greg Laden has a number of posts on installing Linux, Ubuntu vs KDE, and the first steps.

E. Yarber said...

A disc is an acceptably conservative idea, as I got my revived computer back today from the Repair Bar and it works so well I am in mortal fear of wrecking it all over again. I'll investigate.

Sorry to the hundreds of thousands of you out there more interested in Hollywood than my hard drive.