(Bloomberg) -- After agreeing to deny former Chief Executive Officer Les Moonves his $120 million severance this week, CBS Corp.’s board is now contemplating another decision: who should replace him.
The directors are working with executive-search firm Korn/Ferry International to find a new CEO, but the process has begun slowly. To date, most of the focus has been on interviewing board members about what they are looking for in a new chief, according to people familiar with the situation. In the new year, the company plans to start more formally reaching out to possible candidates, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
A CBS representative has approached former Walt Disney Co. Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs about the role, according to one person. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that he’s currently the leading candidate. The pool of experienced outside executives also includes former Turner Broadcasting head John Martin, 20th Century Fox Chairman Stacey Snider and ex-Tribune Media Co. CEO Peter Liguori.
The company also hasn’t ruled out a permanent appointment for Joe Ianniello, the longtime No. 2 to Moonves who is now serving as acting CEO, people familiar with the matter said.
In searching for a new leader, CBS is under pressure to show that it’s turning the page on the Moonves era. After decades of steering the company, he stepped down in September following sexual-harassment allegations from a dozen women. Moonves has denied that any of his sexual activity wasn’t consensual.
The search is complicated by a looming potential deal. The Redstone family, which controls 80 percent of the voting stock of both CBS and Viacom Inc., has long supported a merger of the two companies -- something Moonves had fought.
In conjunction with Moonves’s departure, the Redstones agreed to not propose another merger for at least two years. The boards of both companies could still suggest a deal independently, however.
CBS has already shaken up its board, replacing longtime directors and adding more women. Searching for female CEO candidates also is a priority, the people said, though it’s not considered a necessity.
CBS board member Barbara M. Byrne, a former vice chairman of investment banking at Barclays Plc, is among those involved in the search.
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