MOONVES RETURNS FIRE AT STERN

CBS CEO refuses to comment on company's lawsuit against its former star radio personality, but can't resist taking a shot.

“Of course not,” said CBS President and CEO Les Moonves when asked at the Bear Stearns media conference last night if he would care to discuss publicly the company’s lawsuit against its former radio star Howard Stern. “I can’t talk about that here. But I’m sure it will be talked about tomorrow on the radio…. The good news is that not as many people will hear him as a year ago.”

The line drew applause and laughter from the investors at the conference, but Moonves offered no further comment on the suit, although he did concede that CBS’s radio division has suffered financially without Stern’s enormously popular morning drive show. Stern jumped from CBS to Sirius Satellite Radio in January in a five-year deal valued at $500 million.

The suit alleges, among other things, that during the more than a year when Stern was serving out his contract with CBS, he concealed his interest in hundreds of millions of dollars of Sirius stock while promoting it on his CBS show.

At a press conference yesterday, Stern took the first shot: “I’m offended. I really do think this is a personal vendetta. Les has had it in for me for a long time. I don’t deserve it.”

Stern said he had a meeting with Moonves and CBS Radio chief executive Joel Hollander about three weeks ago to discuss their complaints.

“I said, ‘Les, what’s going on?”‘ said Stern. “He said it’s nothing personal, it’s just business. But … it is personal.”

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