CBS missed its internal deadline to name a new CEO, no decision soon

Sometimes you swing and miss.

Originally, CBS was looking for a diverse candidate with the right type of experience to lead a large media company in the midst of a changing industry. CBS couldn’t find that person, according to two people familiar with the process.

More recently, the CBS board, led by Chairman Strauss Zelnick, has been searching for a leader who has already been a CEO and has previous experience with M&A integration, according to people familiar with the matter. That candidate also may not exist or be available to CBS.

CBS has interviewed current board member and Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner, according to people familiar with the matter. But Goldner’s experience isn’t with media and he already has a job. Several other candidates were nixed because they either didn’t have the CEO experience or the M&A background, two of the people said. Extending the search allows CBS to keep looking.

If CBS can’t find a slam dunk candidate, it increases the chances that interim CEO Joe Ianniello could be named the full-time chief — at least until a merger is consummated. Ianniello hasn’t been offered that job yet, two of the people said, and while he’s unlikely to be named CEO of a combined CBS-Viacom, he could be the No. 2 to Bakish at a combined CBS-Viacom, the people said.

Because CBS never set a firm deadline, it also allows the company to find people who may have not been interested or available several months ago. The next soft “deadline” (in quotes) CBS will face will be its quarterly earnings, scheduled for May 2. If there’s an announcement — perhaps a joint announcement on both the CEO and merger plans — May 2 makes some sense. Because CBS knows every question in its earnings conference call will be focused on the company’s future.

But even May 2 isn’t a hard deadline. CBS could whisk away questions on the company’s future because the board won’t be on the conference call, and the executives don’t have a say in naming the next CEO.

The only hard deadline is June 30. That’s when Ianniello’s contract as interim CEO is up.

If you’re on the edge of your seats waiting for an announcement, you may want to loosen that seat belt.

A CBS spokesman declined to comment.

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