The company that co-owns the rights to Star Trek has a new king.
Les Moonves, the former Warner Bros. chief who has led CBS Corp. since 2006 as its chief executive officer, will now take over as chairman of the board as well. He replaces major shareholder Sumner Redstone, who at 92 has been the subject of a lawsuit that challenged whether he still had the mental capacity to run a $23 billion company.
Although the line of succession was not a surprise, it was unclear whether Redstone’s daughter, Shari Redstone, would take over once her father stepped down. In fact, the CBS board offered her the position first — which she declined, according to a news release from the company. She cited “other professional and personal responsibilities,” as well as her support for Moonves, who has worked with CBS since 1995.
“I have been fortunate to work with Les, and he has clearly established himself as a creative and effective leader who understands both the challenges and the opportunities that are shaping today’s media landscape,” Shari Redstone said in a release. “I am sure he will make a great chair, and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
The younger Redstone, who will remain vice chairwoman of CBS’ board, is currently a managing partner of Advancit Capital, a venture capital company that focuses on media, entertainment and technology, according to a release. She also is vice chairwoman of Viacom Inc., which was part of CBS Corp. until a corporate split in 2006, where her father currently remains chairman. That board is expected to meet Thursday, according to the New York Times, which could consider a similar move for Sumner Redstone.
Sumner Redstone maintains a controlling interest in both CBS and Viacom through National Amusements Inc. in Massachusetts, which owns more than 1,500 movie screens around the world in chains like Showcase Cinemas and Cinema de Lux. That company also is a partner in MovieTickets.com.
Moonves got his break in Hollywood as an executive with Lorimar Television in 1985, becoming its president in 1990. When Lorimar and Warner Bros. Television merged in 1993, he took over as president and CEO until joining CBS Entertainment as its president in 1995, and becoming the head of CBS Television in 1998 before being named as CEO of CBS in 2003. His role would expand to the newly spun off CBS Corp. in 2006.
Moonves has had a rocky relationship with Star Trek over the years, many blaming him directly for the cancellation of “Star Trek: Enterprise” in 2005, which had been suffering from low ratings on the struggling UPN since its launch. The early demise of “Enterprise” would keep Star Trek off television for another decade until late last year when CBS announced it would produce a new Star Trek series for its online subscription service beginning in 2017.
The recent executive moves stem from a lawsuit filed last November against Redstone by a former girlfriend who said she was improperly removed by Redstone in having authority over his health decisions. Manuela Herzer said in court documents that Redstone was not mentally competent to make such a decision. It was an accusation that later raised questions by investors on whether Redstone should be in such a high position with CBS and Viacom.
CBS is a rights holder to the Star Trek franchise, a position it shares with Paramount Pictures Corp., which remains a subsidiary of Viacom.