CBS announced major changes in its executive suites yesterday, including a new president of CBS News and the creation of two new vice presidencies within the CBS/Broadcast Group, which has domain over all radio, television and cable operations of CBS Inc.
Van Gordon Sauter, president of CBS News since March 1982, moves up to the new position of executive vice president, news and television stations (the five stations owned and operated by CBS), and will be succeeded in the news president's chair by his former right-hand man, Edward M. Joyce, who had been executive vice president of the news division.
As before, Sauter reports to Broadcast Group president Gene F. Jankowski; Joyce will report to Sauter. Other new vice presidents named were former CBS Sports president Neal H. Pilson, now a Broadcast Group executive vice president in charge of sports and radio; and executive vice president Thomas F. Leahy, who gets reign over the entertainment division and the CBS television network.
The positions put Sauter, Pilson and Leahy on the same plane as James H. Rosenfield, formerly executive vice president of the Broadcast Group, now "senior executive vice president" in charge of finance, operations and development. CBS insiders saw the changes as substantially diminishing Rosenfield's authority and responsibilities within the structure of the company.
A new president of CBS Sports has yet to be named to replace Pilson. And sources said Joyce has not yet decided who, if anyone, will play the role he played for Sauter, although a front-runner for the post is said to be Howard Stringer, executive producer of the top-rated "CBS Evening News."
The changes move Sauter and Pilson from CBS News headquarters--a fly-infested former dairy on West 57th Street--across town to CBS corporate headquarters on Sixth Avenue, the charcoal-gray Eero Saarinen skyscraper long ago nicknamed Black Rock. One house wag noted that for Sauter, the lone Bohemian in the CBS Ivy League executive enclave, the promotion will mean that "he'll have to buy some suits."
He is known for, among other things, sartorial independence, a very un-CBS beard and a substantial girth he himself attributes to scrupulous overindulgence.
Sauter's rise in the company has been spectacular, and peripatetic, since joining CBS as news and program director for WBBM-AM in Chicago in 1968. His other jobs at CBS have ranged from Paris bureau chief for CBS News to chief network censor to president of CBS Sports to general manager of the CBS-owned KNXT in Los Angeles, a station whose news division and general performance he dramatically revitalized.
While president of CBS News, he was criticized internally for his early handling of the $120 million libel suit filed by Gen. William C. Westmoreland against "CBS Reports"--instead of stonewalling under shelter of counsel, Sauter commissioned an in-house report that was bound to be made public, and was. Sauter later was outspoken in defense of the news division and the broadcast that prompted the suit, a 1982 documentary alleging under-reporting of enemy strength by U.S. military officials during the Vietnam War.
Under Sauter's leadership, CBS News successfully weathered the transition from Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather on the "CBS Evening News," and Sauter was personally responsible for many of the changes that took the "CBS Morning News" from infinitesimal ratings to serious contender in the race with NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning, America" for the first time in CBS history. Sauter is expected to stay active in news operations. He had no comment on the change yesterday.
Jankowski, in making the announcement, praised Rosenfield, Sauter, Pilson and Leahy for the "management talent and experience" that have made CBS number one in news and entertainment ratings and brought revenues to "an all-time peak." Jankowski called the changes "part of the continuing evolution of the CBS/Broadcast Group in response to a changing communications environment."