Joe Ianniello caught in the crossfire of the CBS fight

Joe Ianniello may have hooked his cart to the wrong horse.

Until just a few weeks ago, the director of operations for CBS seemed ready to succeed his mentor, Les Moonves, as CEO of the media giant. [19659002] Not only Moonves and the CBS board have praised Ianniello: the company said it could reach its financial goals until 2020 thanks in large part to projects developed by Ianniello such as CBS All Access and the Showtime broadcast application, together with the Duet had turned the Tiffany network into the most watched station in recent years.

In proxy materials, the board called Ianniello a "key corporate strategic partner" for Moonves.

And, of course, Moonves, in the face of a possible merger with Viacom, insistently insisted that Ianniello would continue as operations director of the proposed combined company: a call with guts that would basically drive Viacom chief executive, Bob Bakish , to the sidewalk.

The Moonves-Ianniello team, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this month, seemed to be on top of the world.

But then it happened on May 14.

That day, the CBS board members, backed by Moonves, went nuclear and sued the controlling shareholder Shari. Redstone and National Amusements Inc. of the family control 80 percent of the voting power on CBS.

Redstone, according to board members, violated its fiduciary responsibilities by insisting that CBS merge with Viacom, a company that also controls the Redstone family. nobody else.

A Delaware judge will now decide whether CBS can dilute Redstone's control of the media company by 20 percent. If the judge rules against CBS, Moonves could be a toast, and Ianniello, 50, could be collateral damage.

"Time is of the essence, whether Moonves believes it or not," said Rich Greenfield, badyst at BTIG. "Ultimately, we think it's hard to imagine that Moonves has a role in the combined company," Greenfield said.

The badyst turned to Moonves and Ianniello: "Honestly, both of you just need to put an end to it, the house of the media industry is on fire, they have to be even bigger than merging."

With the major media agreements that begin to crystallize with Disney and Comcast competing for Fox and Comcast trying to buy Sky, not to mention that AT & T and Time Warner seek to merge, many experts believe that this moment is essential for CBS and Viacom combine and then look for a bigger suitor.

It's hard to imagine the fate of a rising executive changing as fast as Ianniello would.

"Moonves is a visionary, Ianniello comes in and makes sure everything is in the right place," Discovery CEO David Zaslav told The Post. "They create value, they are a formidable team, Joe is a good guy to deal with, he will give you a quick one, not if he is a no."

In the first quarter, CBS reported earnings and revenues well above Wall Street expectations.

While Ianniello's future on CBS won It seems brilliant if the Delaware judge ruled in favor of Redstone, do not rule it out. It has been the favorite before.

A cadre player on his high school baseball team, Ianniello was recruited by Pace University, but he did little more than go on the bench. Frustrated, he tested for the school's soccer team, and he did it.

After graduating from business school at Columbia University, he joined CBS in 1997. He has been on CBS since the mid-1990s.

"Joe has a great ability to see the big picture ", a co-worker told The Post. A second informant said that Ianniello "is not too big and will give context on why … he is not in the ivory tower".

A judge can decide soon if Ianniello can be anxious about the Black Rock tower.

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