CBS Extends Joe Ianniello as Acting CEO

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The former COO had already replaced Leslie Moonves on an interim basis.

Joe Ianniello, who has been running CBS Corp. on an interim basis since Leslie Moonves exited under allegations of sexual misconduct, has been extended as acting CEO for an additional six months, the entertainment conglomerate said Tuesday.

Perhaps more significantly, CBS also said that it has suspended its search for a permanent replacement for Moonves, a move that makes it all the more likely that Ianniello would be named the permanent CEO when his extended contract runs out on Dec. 31.

The extension comes after a flurry of other corporate changes at CBS, which has been in damage-control mode since the Sept. 9 departure of Moonves. On Oct. 18, Christina Spade and David Nevins were named CFO and chief creative officer, respectively, while a week earlier Dana McClintock was promoted to chief communications officer.

Beyond the drama caused by the sexual assault accusations against Moonves — which, pending litigation, has resulted in the former CEO losing his $120 million severance package — Ianniello's extension comes as Wall Street is banking on CBS merging with another entity, possibly Viacom, considering both are controlled by Sumner and Shari Redstone.

Moonves had been on thin ice even before journalist Ronan Farrow outlined numerous claims of sexual abuse against him because he was suing to dilute the Redstone's control over CBS. 

Before CBS inked Ianniello to an additional six months, others it had considered for permanent CEO included former Turner Broadcasting CEO John Martin and former Walt Disney COO Tom Staggs. Others who declared themselves unavailable for various reasons included HBO chairman and CEO Richard Plepler, CBS board chairman Strauss Zelinick and former Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons.

Ianniello served as CFO and COO under Moonves and was considered a loyal lieutenant, a reputation some insiders speculated might hurt his chances at being named permanent CEO, though those concerns seem irrelevant now. It is clear the board of directors, which includes Shari Redstone, see in Ianniello a leader capable of both running CBS and of potentially merging it with another entertainment or new-media entity, if need be.

"Joe has demonstrated exceptional leadership during this time of unprecedented transition at CBS," the directors said Tuesday in a statement. "He steadied the ship with some key appointments and a commitment to cultural change, and steered it forward by focusing CBS' operations around its growing direct-to-consumer strategy."

Before CBS and Viacom split into two companies in 2006, Ianniello held several roles at the latter, including that of senior vp and treasurer and vp corporate development.