Les Moonves

Les Moonves
Les Moonves at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Woody Allen's film Whatever Works
Born Leslie Roy Moonves
(1949-10-06) October 6, 1949
New York City
Residence Beverly Hills, California
Alma mater Bucknell University, Valley Stream Central High School
Occupation Chairman and CEO, CBS Corporation
Salary US$66.9 million (2013) (includes other compensation)[1]
  • Nancy Wiesenfeld
    (m. 1978; div. 2004)
  • Julie Chen
    (m. 2004)
Children 4
Relatives Jon Moonves (brother)[2][3]

Leslie Roy Moonves (/ˈmnvɛz/; born October 6, 1949) is an American media executive. He currently serves as chairman and CEO of CBS Corporation.[4][5]

Moonves served as Co-President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of Viacom, Inc., the predecessor to CBS Corporation, from 2004 until the company split on December 31, 2005. Prior to that, he had had a series of executive positions at CBS since July 1995.[4] He has been on the Board of Directors at ZeniMax Media since 1999.[4] He became Chairman of CBS in February 2016.[6][7][8]

Early life

Moonves was born to a Jewish family[9][10] in New York City, the son of Josephine (Schleifer) and Herman Moonves,[11][12] and grew up in Valley Stream, New York. His mother was a nurse.[13] He has two brothers, including entertainment attorney Jonathan Moonves; and one sister Melissa Moonves Colon.[13] He attended Valley Stream Central High School and went to Bucknell University, graduating in 1971.[14] In his sophomore year he decided that his sciences courses were unfulfilling so he switched his major from pre-medical to Spanish (a subject he found vastly more enjoyable) and acted in a few plays; following graduation in 1971 he moved to Manhattan to pursue a career as an actor, but after playing a few "forgettable" TV roles he decided to pursue the business side of television instead.[15]

Business career

Moonves had upper management experience early in his business career. He was in charge of first-run syndication and pay/cable programming at 20th Century Fox Television. Also at 20th Century Fox Television, he was vice president of movies and mini-series. Other positions included vice president of Development at Saul Ilson Productions (in association with Columbia Pictures Television) and development executive for Catalina Productions.[16]

Lorimar Television and Warner Bros. Television

Moonves joined Lorimar Television in 1985 as executive in charge of its movies and mini-series, and in 1988, became head of creative affairs. From 1990 to 1993, he was president at Lorimar.[17] In July 1993, he became president/CEO of Warner Bros. Television, when Warner Bros. and Lorimar Television combined operations. In this phase of his career, he green-lighted the hit shows Friends and ER, among many others.[15]


He joined CBS in July 1995 as president of CBS Entertainment.[18] From April 1998 until 2003, he was president and chief executive officer at CBS Television, then was promoted to chairman and CEO of CBS in 2003. In 2003, CBS became America's most watched television network and had six of the ten most-watched primetime shows in the final quarter of 2005: CSI, Without a Trace, CSI: Miami, Survivor: Guatemala, NCIS, and Cold Case.[15]

In February 2005, Moonves was identified as the executive directly responsible for ordering the cancellation of UPN's Star Trek: Enterprise and the ending of the 18-year revival of the Star Trek television franchise.[19] In January 2006, Moonves helped make the deal that brought together CBS-owned United Paramount Network (UPN) with The WB Television Network to form The CW Television Network.

Moonves was considered the second most highly paid director for 2012 and 2013: he received $58.8 million[20] and $65.4 million.[21] He is considered the second-highest paid CEO, having been paid $68.4 million in 2017.[22]

In 2013, Moonves was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.[23] He became chairman of CBS in February 2016.[6][7][8]

Of the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign and the advertising dollars it delivered, Moonves said, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." He added, "Donald's place in this election is a good thing."[24]

Howard Stern litigation

On February 28, 2006, Moonves led CBS to file a $500 million lawsuit against Howard Stern for allegedly breaching his contract by failing to disclose the details of his deal with Sirius Satellite Radio while still employed by Infinity Broadcasting. Stern vowed to fight the suit, and said on his radio program that Moonves and CBS were trying to "bully" him and his agent, Don Buchwald. Stern later appeared on CBS' own Late Show with David Letterman, wearing a shirt mocking Moonves and his wife. On June 7, 2006, Stern announced that the lawsuit had been settled. As part of the settlement, Sirius acquired the exclusive rights to all of the WXRK tapes (over two decades worth of shows) for $2 million.

ZeniMax Media

Moonves has served on the board of ZeniMax Media since its foundation in 1999, alongside his friend and ZeniMax president Ernest Del.[25] Moonves' personal investment[26] in the company has been noted, as well as his appearances at several launch parties, including for Bethesda Softworks' Fallout 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and Rage.[27]

Sexual misconduct allegations

Moonves voiced support for the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment in the workplace[28][29] and was a founding member of the "Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace", formed in late 2017 to "tackle the broad culture of abuse and power disparity".[30][31]

In July 2018, The New Yorker published an article by Ronan Farrow saying that six women accuse Moonves of harassment and intimidation, and dozens have described abuse at CBS.[32] Moonves was subsequently placed under investigation by the CBS board.[33]

Bucknell University removed references to Moonves on its website, and University of Southern California suspended Moonves' name from its Media Center.[34]

Acting career

In his early career, Moonves was an actor. He landed a few television roles, playing tough guys on Cannon and The Six Million Dollar Man[35] before deciding on a career change.[15] He also worked as one of casting director Caro Jones' first office assistants early in her career.[36]

On April 7, 2003, Moonves portrayed himself in an episode of The Practice. From early 2004, Moonves has made regular appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman. One of these came when Letterman declared outrage that CBS featured his late-night competitor Jay Leno in an ad for CBS's telecast of the People's Choice Awards. Letterman jokingly warned the "CBS stooge in the control room" to call his buddies "before things turn ugly"; Moonves obliged. Later appearances took the same format, with Letterman discussing current events and the CBS network with the company's CEO.

On the March 23, 2015 premiere episode of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Moonves portrayed himself as the head of CBS who sends out a golden ticket granting whoever finds it a chance to host The Late Late Show, in an homage to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Moonves also appeared on the September 8, 2015 premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, repeatedly shown with a giant switch he could use if he was unhappy with the new show, to return the broadcast to reruns of The Mentalist, which had been airing in the 11:35 time slot since the conclusion of the Late Show with David Letterman.[37]

Personal life

Moonves is a great-nephew of Paula Ben-Gurion, born Paula Munweis, wife of David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel.[38][39] He practices Transcendental Meditation, and has said, "It puts me in a calm state, which I'm not always in."[40]

In 1978, Moonves married Nancy Wiesenfeld (m. December 17, 1978, div. 2004), with whom he has three children[41][42][43][44] including W magazine style director Sara Moonves.[45] In April 2003, Nancy Moonves filed for divorce in Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences. Nancy and Les Moonves were already living apart.[46]

In 2004, although his divorce from Nancy was not yet finalized, Les Moonves began dating CBS' The Early Show reporter Julie Chen.[47] On December 10, 2004, Moonves got a court to grant an early divorce,[48] on a motion citing a "desire to return to the status of being single". Thirteen days later in Mexico, he married Chen.[47] On September 24, 2009, Chen gave birth to a son.[49]

Moonves resides in Beverly Hills, California, in a house he bought from Andy Heyward.[50] He also owns residences in New York City and Malibu.[51]


In 2015 Moonves and his wife made a major donation to University of Southern California, resulting in a media center being named the "Julie Chen/Leslie Moonves and CBS Media Center." Moonves was already a USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors member.[52] Previously Moonves was a University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism board member.[53]

In August 2018 Moonves was "suspended" from the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors in the wake of his sex abuse contretemps.[54]

See also

  • Sumner Redstone, former executive chairman of CBS and member of Redstone family which owns the majority share of CBS
  • Shari Redstone, vice-chairwoman of CBS and member of Redstone family which owns the majority share of CBS
  • Jim Lanzone, President and CEO of CBS Interactive
  • Martha Minow, law professor and CBS board member
  • David R. Andelman, lawyer and CBS board member


  1. Variety Staff. "CBS Chief Leslie Moonves Received $66.9 Million Pay Package for 2013". Variety.
  2. "CBS' Leslie Moonves: Wall Street Hero, "Pushover" at Home, Future Ambassador?". The Hollywood Reporter. September 24, 2014. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  3. "The Del Shaw Moonves Trio (Ernie Del, Jon Moonves and Nina Shaw)". Variety. March 28, 2007. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 "Biography from CBS Corporation website".
  5. "Leslie Moonves Interview". "Archive of American Television".
  6. 1 2 Brian Steinberg. "Leslie Moonves Named CBS Chairman, Replacing Sumner Redstone". Variety. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  7. 1 2 "Sumner Redstone resigns as CBS executive chairman, replaced by Leslie Moonves". Los Angeles Times. 3 February 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  8. 1 2 "Sumner Redstone Steps Down as CBS Chairman, Replaced by Leslie Moonves". The New York Times. 4 February 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  9. CNN Money: "Leslie Moonves's Role of a Lifetime. The former actor excels at spotting talent and picking shows. Now he has to sell Wall Street on CBS stock" By Devin Leonard April 10, 2006 |"Moonves joked afterward. "You know, this is my tenth time playing Carnegie Hall. I believe that is a new record for a Jew without an instrument."
  10. Financial Post: "Lawrence Solomon: The Jewish press and Israel" by Lawrence Solomon November 30, 2012
  11. "Biography". Scribd.
  12. Brook, Vincent. From Shtetl to Stardom: Jews and Hollywood: Chapter 1: Still an Empire of Their Own: How Jews Remain Atop a Reinvented Hollywood. Purdue University Press. p. 15.
  13. 1 2 Barnes, Mike. Hollywood Reporter: "Josephine Moonves, Mother of CBS' Leslie Moonves, Dies at 92", The Hollywood Reporter, July 18, 2016.
  14. Leslie Moonves '71 to Receive Honorary Degree at Commencement from the Bucknell University website
  15. 1 2 3 4 Leslie Moonves's Role of a Lifetime Money via CNN.com. Retrieved April 10, 2006.
  16. "Biography from CBS Corporation website". Archived from the original on 2008-02-26.
  17. John Lippman (October 11, 1990). "Moonves Takes Over Helm of Lorimar". Los Angeles Times.
  18. Bill Carter (August 18, 1998). "CBS Fills President's Post At Entertainment Division". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-08-22. CBS named Nancy Tellem president of the network's entertainment division yesterday, the position vacated in April by her longtime associate, Leslie Moonves, who is now the chief executive of CBS Television.
  19. "UPN Cancels 'Star Trek: Enterprise'". Trektoday.com. February 2, 2005. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  20. Prisma Media (16 May 2013). "Les grands patrons de mieux en mieux payés aux Etats-Unis". Capital.fr.
  21. "CEO Compensation Histogram Chart — Business Insider". Business Insider. 28 May 2014.
  22. "CBS investigating sexual misconduct claims against CEO Les Moonves". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The Associated Press. 27 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018. Moonves was the No. 2 highest paid CEO of a major public company in 2017, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and Equilar, an executive data firm. He made $68.4 million US last year
  23. "Television Hall of Fame Honorees: Complete List".
  24. Bond, Paul (29 February 2016). "Leslie Moonves on Donald Trump: "It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS"". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 17 March 2016. he likes the ad money Trump and his competitors are bringing to the network. "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS," he said of the presidential race.
  25. Sterngold, James (September 24, 1998). "Kick-Starting (Kapow!) a TV Series; CBS Broke All the Rules to Fling an Action Show at Young Men". The New York Times.
  26. "ZeniMax Media raises $9.9 million from some big names — VentureBeat — Deals — by Dean Takahashi". venturebeat.com.
  27. "Leslie Moonves Pictures — "Rage" Video Game Launch — Zimbio". Zimbio.
  28. Jayme Deerwester; Andrea Mandell (27 July 2018). "Leslie Moonves accused of sexually harassing six women in New Yorker piece". USA Today. Retrieved 28 July 2018. A public proponent of the #MeToo movement, Moonves
  29. Eric Lutz (28 July 2018). "CBS exec Les Moonves accused of sexual misconduct in latest Ronan Farrow bombshell". Mic. Retrieved 28 July 2018. Moonves has also been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement
  30. Wattles, Jackie (16 December 2017). "Hollywood execs name Anita Hill to lead anti-harassment effort". CNNMoney. Cable News Network. Retrieved 30 July 2018. Among the list of the commission's members are:... -- Les Moonves, chairman/CEO of CBS Corp
  31. Cara Buckley (15 December 2017). "Anita Hill to Lead Hollywood Commission on Sexual Harassment". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  32. Farrow, Ronan (2018-08-06). "Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct". The New Yorker. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  33. Flint, Joe; Hagey, Keach (28 July 2018). "CBS to Investigate Allegations of Sexual Harassment Against CEO Moonves". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  34. "USC Annenberg suspends use of Les Moonves' name on media center". CBS News. The Associated Press. 2 August 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018. Moonves' alma mater, Bucknell University, has also removed some references to him from its website.
  35. Les Moonves on IMDb
  36. Barnes, Mike (2009-09-10). "Casting director Caro Jones dies". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 18, 2009. Retrieved 2009-09-20.
  37. Worland, Justin (September 9, 2015). "Watch Stephen Colbert Joke With CEO of CBS About Canceling His Show". Time.com. Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  38. "Throng Thrills to Thomashefsky's Titillating Tales".
  39. JSpace: "All in the Family: Les Moonves is Grandnephew of Ben Gurion Archived 2013-04-11 at Archive.is October 6, 2011
  40. Battaglio, Stephen (24 February 2016). "How Leslie Moonves continues to guide CBS to the top of the TV industry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 March 2016. Moonves cools down by practicing Transcendental Meditation several times a week. ... 'I do it right before I go to sleep,' he said. 'It puts me in a calm state, which I'm not always in.'
  41. "Michael Samuel Moonves, Born 02/09/1988 in California - CaliforniaBirthIndex.org". www.californiabirthindex.org.
  42. "Sara Anne Moonves, Born 11/26/1984 in California - CaliforniaBirthIndex.org". www.californiabirthindex.org.
  43. "NY Daily News – Daily Dish – Rush & Molloy: Moonves' marriage may get an airing" from the New York Daily News "Archived copy". Archived from the original on April 23, 2003. Retrieved December 5, 2016.
  44. Interfaith Family: "Interfaith Celebrities: The Talk's Hosts and David Schwimmers Bride" By Nate Bloom. October 26, 2010 |"Moonves, who is Jewish, began an affair with Chen while still married to his first (Jewish) wife, who is the mother of his three older children"
  45. Horgan, Richard (July 20, 2017). "Les Moonves' Daughter Sara Is Headed to W Magazine". AdWeek. Retrieved 2018-07-28.
  46. "Moonves' Marriage May Get An Airing". Daily News. New York.
  47. 1 2 "'Big Brother' host Julie Chen marries CBS president Les Moonves". Realitytvworld.com. December 29, 2004. Retrieved November 21, 2007.
  48. "Moonves: "I Want To Get On With My Life"". The Smoking Gun.
  49. "It's a Boy for Julie Chen". CBS News. 2009-09-24.
  50. "Los Angeles real estate news, data and statistics, home sales and real estate listings — Los Angeles". blockshopper.com.
  51. Mark David (April 14, 2014). "CBS President Les Moonves Lists Malibu Starter House". Variety.
  52. BRIAN LOWRY (25 February 2015). "USC Media Center Named For CBS' Leslie Moonves, Julie Chen". Variety. Retrieved 2 August 2018. Moonves attended Bucknell University and is a member of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Board of Councilors.
  53. "USC Annenberg Media Center Named for Julie Chen, Leslie Moonves". Philanthropy News Digest. 2 March 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2018. Moonves is a member of the USC School of Cinematic Arts' board and a past member of the USC Annenberg board.
  54. https://variety.com/2018/biz/news/usc-school-of-cinematic-arts-suspends-leslie-moonves-from-board-1202892517/
Business positions
Preceded by
Peter Tortorici
President of CBS
Succeeded by
Nancy Tellem
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