Richard “Dick” Parsons, former Time Warner chairman and CEO, has been named CBS Corp.’s interim chairman of the Board of Directors, according to a press release from the network.
The announcement comes just weeks after Leslie Moonves stepped down as chairman and CEO of CBS amid a cascade of sexual assault allegations published in a series of articles in The New Yorker.
Parsons was recommended by the board’s Nominating and Governance Committee according to a press release.
A little backstory: Shari Redstone, CBS vice chair and president of controlling shareholder National Amusement (NAI), is part of a family that “controls CBS through special voting shares,” according to Recode. The Redstone family sought to merge another company in which they have a major investment—Viacom—with CBS.
The move to merge culminated in a vicious battle between Redstone and Moonves with CBS at one point, under Moonves’ leadership, suing Redstone.
There is speculation in business circles that Redstone is again considering merging Viacom and CBS and that Parsons’ appointment may indicate he supports the merger, however, that has yet to be confirmed.
Also announced, another black CBS board member, Bruce Gordon, stepped down from the board.
Gordon, who joined CBS’ board of directors in 2006, played an instrumental role in negotiating the larger settlement that included Moonves’s removal, according to The New York Times. “This agreement maintains an independent board that is charged with determining the best course for the future of CBS on behalf of all shareholders,” he said in a statement.
Incidentally, Gordon led a special committee that reviewed Redstone’s attempt to merge Viacom with CBS and take control of the network in May 2018.
At the time, Gordon and the committee “evaluated the Viacom merger proposal, outlined the group’s considerations and ‘stressed the Special Committee’s significant concerns with respect to defendants’ ongoing interference with management,” according to a report from Bloomberg.
A representative for NAI reached out to offer commentary on the matter, “As detailed in NAI’s complaint dated May 29, NAI disclosed that, in advance of CBS’s complaint, it had already determined that it could no longer support a transaction. NAI also made clear from the beginning of the special committee process that it would only support a transaction that was supported by both CBS and Viacom.”
Exclusive: Bruce Gordon on His Departure From the Board
In an exclusive statement to Black Enterprise, Gordon spoke on why he stepped down from the CBS board.
“Often when you see people leaving a position whether it’s on boards or employment, the response you hear is they are leaving to pursue other interests — that is a very generic statement which leaves a lot open for others to interpret,” he said.
So why did he leave the board? It’s about re-focusing on the black community and the upcoming midterm elections.
“One of the things I have become very involved with is the Black Economic Alliance, but let’s be clear—the Black Economic Alliance is a pact—created by a group of men and women primarily from the business community. Our priority is to drive an economic agenda for the African American community,” says Gordon.
“After I got involved with the ‘CBS adventure’ over the course of the years, particularly in the last couple of months, it has really compromised my ability to work with the alliance and we, as of right now, [are working to] have a meaningful impact on the 2018 midterm elections. I need to get back to that. We have 40 days to Election Day and there is a lot of work to do.”
Gordon says heading the special committee and navigating through the Moonves scandal, “completely consumed” his life. He says it’s time to get back to that which “affects my community.”
When asked about the speculation that he stepped down because of the chance that Redstone may move to merge Viacom and CBS again, he says that his departure from the board, “has nothing to do with the settlement.”
“Within the settlement is a very specific provision…about when a Viacom recombination could be considered. There is a two-year limit; a two-year standstill period that can only be overruled by an independent board of directors,” Gordon explains. He went on to say he has a “lot of confidence” in the settlement.
Parsons Throughout the Years
Parsons is a well-rounded leader noted for his sound judgment and vast experience in politics, finance, entertainment, and philanthropy. His illustrious career earned him the February 2002 cover of BLACK ENTERPRISE magazine. He also has a proven track record of driving results at large organizations during times of crisis and change.
“Among the numerous roles of this unflappable leader: Taking the helm of AOL Time Warner as the media giant was reeling from a troubled merger during the height of the dot-com boom; serving as chairman of Citigroup as the financial giant was recovering from the sector’s financial meltdown; lending his expertise to U.S. presidents over the years in tackling dire issues ranging from Social Security reform to job creation during the Great Recession; helping to resurrect the famed Apollo Theater at a time in which it was financially crippled; and assuming the role of interim CEO to stabilize the L.A. Clippers NBA franchise during the Donald Sterling scandal,” writes BLACK ENTERPRISE Editor-in-Chief Derek T. Dingle.
Watch a Black Enterprise interview with Dick Parsons from 2009 where he provides invaluable business and career tips which still apply:
—Selena Hill contributed to this report.
—Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with exclusive commentary from Bruce Gordon. This article was also updated to reflect that Richard Parsons was appointed to his new role by the board’s Nominating and Governance Committee, and to include additional comments from NAI.