Les Moonves has resigned as chief executive of CBS after it became clear that a series of imminent boardroom changes would leave him with diminished support and new allegations of improper conduct were made against him.
Because he was not fired for cause, Mr Moonves, one of Hollywood’s most powerful figures, remained entitled to a severance package, which was potentially worth more than $200m.
However, it was unclear how much he would receive.
In a statement late on Sunday, CBS said $20m would be deducted from any severance owed to Mr Moonves and would be donated “to one or more organisations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace”.
Apart from “certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits”, the rest of the severance he was owed would will be held back until an investigation into his conduct is completed and the board can evaluate the results, the company said.
The announcement by CBS came after fresh allegations were made against Mr Moonves by several women in the New Yorker magazine earlier on Sunday.
Mr Moonves has denied he ever acted improperly. CBS declined to comment on the report.
The CBS board met over the weekend to discuss Mr Moonves’ departure. Joe Ianniello, CBS’s chief operating officer, will become acting chief executive until a permanent successor to Mr Moonves can be found.
Bruce Gordon, a former boardroom ally of Mr Moonves, is being lined up to become non-executive chairman of CBS, one person briefed on the discussions told the Financial Times.
Mr Gordon could not be reached for comment.
Mr Moonves had been discussing a departure from the broadcaster for several days after it became clear that negotiations to settle litigation against the family vehicle of the Redstone family, National Amusements, would leave him with diminished board support.
National Amusements is the controlling shareholder of CBS. In May, it was the subject of a lawsuit from several CBS directors that aimed to limit the family’s power and thwart a merger of CBS and Viacom, the owner of MTV, Paramount and Comedy Central.
Mr Gordon, an independent CBS director, was among the named plaintiffs but he and some other board members ultimately decided to settle the litigation.
As part of the settlement, several directors will step down from the CBS board, among them supporters of Mr Moonves, such as Doug Morris, the former head of Sony Music; Arnold Kopelson, a film producer; and Leonard Goldberg, the executive producer of the hit CBS series Blue Bloods.
One person briefed on the board discussions said Mr Moonves had been the victim of “a boardroom coup” that would give power to Shari Redstone, the daughter of Sumner Redstone, the ageing media mogul who controls CBS and Viacom.
Ms Redstone has been a big proponent of the merger of CBS and Viacom.
But others said Mr Moonves’ departure was overdue. Time’s Up, the campaign group formed in the wake of allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women in Hollywood, said the new round of allegations against Mr Moonves “speak to a culture of toxic complicity at CBS, where the safety of women was continuously ignored to protect the careers of powerful men and the corporation.
The CBS board . . . has an obligation to move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment for all and rid the company of this toxic culture.”
As part of the litigation settlement, Ms Redstone and National Amusements have agreed to halt efforts to merge CBS and Viacom for two years.
They have also given assurances to the board that it will be able to act independently and consider alternative bids for the company after it was forced to turn down approaches by AT&T and Verizon, said people briefed on the talks.