Joe Ianniello was seen as the odd man out once members of the CBS and Viacom boards got serious about merger discussions this past spring. It became clear early on that Bob Bakish was the choice to lead the combined company as CEO.
But as the negotiations progressed, the future of CBS’ president and acting CEO became a key concern for CBS board members. As demonstrated by CBS’ second quarter earnings report released last week, the company is performing well despite the upheaval over the past year and is on target to meet its ambitious growth projections.
CBS board members were concerned about endorsing a merger agreement that left no management role for Ianniello, according to multiple sources. After 22 years at CBS, he was prepared to move on if a merger deal was reached. But CBS board members, including controlling shareholder Shari Redstone, persuaded him to consider options for remaining with the media company.
In his new role as chairman-CEO of CBS, Ianniello will oversee all CBS-branded assets that will now be under the ViacomCBS umbrella. Showtime and smaller cable channels Pop and Smithsonian will move out of Ianniello’s portfolio, with Showtime chief and CBS chief creative officer David Nevins now reporting directly to Bakish. Ianniello will also report to Bakish.
“Our board spent significant time with me going through deep dives into the business,” Ianniello told Variety. “Any time there’s a transaction of this size, there’s the question of whether there are meaningful roles for multiple executives. Obviously there’s only one CEO. The art of the deal here was finding a scenario where Bob and Joe can stay together.”
It is believed that as an incentive to stay, Ianniello was granted an unusual level of autonomy that was built into his employment contract. Sources said Ianniello and CBS board members pushed hard in the final days before the deal was announced to give him the flexibility to run CBS as he sees fit, although some deal points were ultimately rebuffed. Ianniello declined to comment on the specifics of his new contract, which runs through 2021.
Ianniello’s lofty status is a far cry from the expectation this time last year when longtime CBS leader Leslie Moonves was ousted amid the battle with Redstone over control of CBS. Moonves strongly opposed the proposed reunion with Viacom (the companies merged in 2000 but were split up again in January 2006) on the grounds that Viacom’s struggles would be a drag on CBS.
Ianniello was Moonves’ right-hand lieutenant on the business side for years, serving as chief financial officer and chief operating officer, until Moonves was fired last September after allegations of past sexual misconduct surfaced. Ianniello’s close association with Moonves and involvement in CBS’ failed legal action against Shari Redstone and the Redstone family’s National Amusements last year seemed to ensure he would be shown the door soon after Moonves’ ouster. As part of the flurry of legal filings connected to the litigation, Ianniello was revealed to have made snarky comments about Redstone in private communications with Moonves.
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Source:: Daily times