The price of family peace can be steep if you’re a media mogul.
Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone each agreed late last week to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars to resolve squabbling and litigation over the future of their family estates. The cash payouts streamline control at two of the most powerful entertainment congloms in the world, which were riven by an abundance of heirs, in one case, and dysfunctional family dynamics in the other.
Murdoch’s family trust handed out $100 million in non-voting stock to each of the News Corp. chairman-CEO’s six children — his eldest daughter, Prudence, by his first wife; his three children Lachlan, Elisabeth and James, by wife Anna; and his two youngest girls by current wife, Wendi.
The distribution follows last summer’s settlement in which Murdoch agreed all his progeny would share equally in the wealth of News Corp., in the form of non-voting shares, but that only his four older children would inherit control of the company “should I be hit by a bus,” as he put it. Rupert and Wendi had initially wanted to establish control for their two children, ages 5 and 3, as well, upsetting Anna and the four older children.
Redstone is the chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp. and the holding company National Amusements, which controls both Viacom and CBS as well as other assets.
Redstone’s son Brent sued his father, sister Shari Redstone and the board of National Amusements last year, claiming he was consistently shut out of decision-making. He asked that the holding be split up and sold so he could monetize his stake.
In a settlement in Maryland court, the Redstone family agreed to purchase Brent’s one-sixth stake of NAI.
As a result, Summer Redstone owns 80% of the holding, Shari 20%.
It’s not clear how much Brent was paid for his share. Brent’s initial lawsuit valued National Amusements at $8 billion, given the stakes in Viacom and CBS. That would have made Brent’s stake worth hundreds of millions of dollars, although the settlement is likely to be only a fraction of that.
At another big media empire across the Atlantic, words may have been enough to keep the peace.
The wife of Italo media baron Silvio Berlusconi last week fired a salvo in what was seen as the start of a potential feud over control of the Mediaset family empire.
Veronica Berlusconi, in a front page op-ed in national daily La Repubblica, asked her husband to stop flirting publicly with other women and apologize to her. The epistle, which shocked the nation, was seen as staking a claim for herself and her children should the former Italian PM carry one of his flirtations too far.
Berlusconi, 70, is said to have told one former starlet, “I would marry you immediately if I wasn’t already married.” To another, he reportedly said, “With you, I’d go anywhere.”
Berlusconi moved to head off the confrontation. In a statement, issued via his Forza Italia party, he said, “Forgive me, I beg you. And take this public show of my private pride giving in to your fury as an act of love. One of many.”