CBS News chief Neeraj Khemlani stepping down after tumultuous 2-year reign


Embattled CBS News co-president Neeraj Khemlani, whose two-year cost-cutting reign was marked by clashes with high-profile anchors and HR complaints, is leaving the network.

The surprise shakeup was confirmed by CBS brass shortly after the New York Post published a story online Sunday that the mercurial network chief had been calling confidantes to tell them he’s out.

Rumors of his exit hit a fever pitch last week after The Post ran an exclusive story on July 30 that Khemlani was being monitored by an HR executive after a slew of complaints for his alleged “bullying, rude” behavior.

Khemlani’s schedule for this week had been cleared despite the fact he was slated to return Monday from a week-long family vacation in Europe, sources with knowledge told The Post.

CBS had planned to announce a restructuring on Monday, another insider told The Post.

The Post’s report of his impending departure apparently moved up those plans. Khemlani, whose three-year contract expires next spring, sent a memo to CBS News staffers on Sunday announcing plans to begin a new stage of his career.

“(I am) looking forward to slipping my reporter’s notebook back into my pocket and heading out on a new adventure,” he said in his farewell to staffers, which was obtained by The Post.

Khemlani — who was in charge of prized programs that include “CBS Evening News” “60 Minutes, “CBS Mornings” and “Face the Nation” — will now seek to develop content in a new multi-year, first-look deal with CBS, according to the memo.

CBS CEO George Cheeks, who brought in the divisive network chief, sent out a memo to staff confirming Khemlani’s departure and said the two had been discussing “his potential transition for some time.”

Representatives for CBS and Khemlani did not respond to requests for comment.

Sources have pointed to Wendy McMahon, Khemlani’s co-president who runs the CBS Television Stations and CBS News Digital divisions, as the front-runner to take over his responsibilities for running the News division,

The restructuring will likely name deputies who will report to McMahon, the insider said.

Khemlani’s downfall comes after reports surfaced that he blew up at Chief Financial Officer Stacey Benson and another female executive on her team during a budget meeting in April.

Since taking the reins in May 2021, Khemlani — a former Hearst executive — has been under “immense pressure” from Cheeks to hit certain budget numbers, insiders said.

He immediately clashed with “CBS Evening News” anchor Norah O’Donnell over contract matters, The Post reported.

Khemlani’s combustible temper, meanwhile, reportedly translated to plunging morale among CBS News staffers, who have described their boss as “rude” and “micro-managing.”

As previously reported by The Post, those complaints have led to a larger internal review headed by CBS corporate HR exec Whitney Delich.

The review, which began in 2022, was focused on how Khemlani speaks to women and employees of color.

Prior to the investigation, Singaporean-born Khemlani had been subjected to a “360 performance review” by his bosses and direct reports, which resulted in mandatory counseling on how to speak to employees “without sarcasm” while using “friendly body language,” multiple sources said at the time.

Khemlani made no mention of any hard feelings in his memo to staff Sunday.

“We maintained the #1 position of our iconic weekend programs, successfully developed and launched business plans to grow digital revenue that will sustain CBS News for the next generation, and elevated and promoted so many of the people who work here day after day to deliver on our journalistic mission,” Khemlani wrote in his memo.

“I’m so proud of what all of you have accomplished — the scores of journalistic wins, the superb storytelling, the creativity that enhanced every aspect of our programming — that has put this division on a stronger path forward.”

Khemlani “put new business plans in place to drive more revenue, which is essential in a challenging environment for all media companies,” Cheeks said in his memo.

Khemlani’s cost-cutting was seen by some as a possible path to spin off the network as its parent Paramount Global
PARA,
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— which also owns Paramount Pictures, Showtime, MTV and Nickelodeon, among others — focuses on streaming. 

This report originally appeared on NYPost.com.

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