Freston’s pricey payout

Viacom CEO's exit cost $72 mil

NEW YORK — Sumner Redstone’s Viacom has paid dearly for swapping out Tom Freston with Philippe Dauman.

Ousted Viacom CEO Freston will receive a severance package of just over $72 million plus a three-year adviser gig at $1 million a year.

He also leaves holding restricted stock and options valued at $10 million.

In the separation agreement filed with the SEC on Wednesday, Viacom said Freston gets $59 million to pay out the rest of his contract, which runs through June 2009. He also had accrued $7.4 million in deferred compensation and $5.7 million for the balance of his 401(k) plan.

In an unusual feature of the agreement, Freston can exit his adviser contract with 14 days’ notice — meaning he essentially has a noncompete clause that he can cancel at will.

Viacom said the company and Freston have agreed to “a mutual release covering any claims arising out of Mr. Freston’s employment or the termination thereof.”

Redstone fired Freston last month, to the great surprise of Wall Street and Hollywood, and the dismay of thousands at MTV Networks, which the popular exec helped build into a global powerhouse.

The Viacom chairman and controlling shareholder replaced Freston with his own longtime adviser and Viacom board member Dauman. Industryites and Wall Streeters have yet to form a strong opinion on Dauman — who has no operational experience — and are taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Freston traveled in Burma for several weeks and recently returned to New York.

He’s being actively courted — according to rumors, by NBC Universal and AOL, among others — although it’s not clear if he’s seriously entertaining any possibilities so soon after leaving Viacom.

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