|Les Moonves and Joe Ianniello|
Not only had Moonves and the CBS board been heaping praise on Ianniello — the company said it would be able to hit its financial targets through 2020 in large part because of Ianniello-developed projects like CBS All Access and Showtime’s streaming app — together the duo had made the tiffany network the most-watched broadcast outlet for the past several years.
And of course, Moonves, faced with a possible merger with Viacom, famously insisted Ianniello continue as the COO of the proposed combined company — a gutsy call that would basically kick Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish to the curb.
The Moonves-Ianniello team, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this month, seemed to be on top of the world, according to The NYPost.
On that day, members of the CBS board, with Moonves’ backing, went nuclear and sued controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and the family’s National Amusements Inc. — which controls 80 percent of the voting power at CBS.
Redstone, the board members claimed, violated her fiduciary responsibilities by insisting CBS merge with Viacom — a company the Redstone family also controls — and no one else.
A Delaware judge will now decide (on June 12) whether CBS will be able to dilute Redstone control of the media company to about 20 percent. If the judge rules against CBS, Moonves could be toast — and Ianniello, 50, could very well be collateral damage.
“Time is of the essence whether or not Moonves believes it,” said BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield. “Ultimately, we believe it is hard to imagine Moonves having a role in the combined company,” Greenfield told The Post.
The analyst turned to Moonves and Ianniello: “Honestly they both just need to be terminated. The media industry house is on fire. They need to get even bigger than merged.”
With big media deals beginning to crystallize with Disney and Comcast vying for Fox and Comcast trying to buy Sky — not to mention AT&T and Time Warner looking to merge — many experts believe that time is of the essence for CBS and Viacom to combine and then hunt for a larger suitor.