Sumner Redstone opposes Viacom’s plans to sell a stake in Paramount Pictures, but he’s on board with CBS’s plans to sell or spin off its radio division, according to CBS chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves.
The Eye in March announced it would explore a sale of the 117-station CBS Radio group. During the Q&A portion of CBS’s 2016 shareholders meeting Thursday in New York, Moonves was asked if that deal was contingent on the approval from Redstone (CBS’s controlling shareholder) or his representatives in light of his opposition to the Paramount proposal.
“Our situation with radio has absolutely nothing to do with Viacom,” Moonves responded. “We have received full support from Mr. Redstone with what we are doing” with the planned CBS Radio divestiture.
Sumner Redstone was not present at the CBS shareholders meeting at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art, but was dialed in via phone, according to Moonves.
Meanwhile, when Moonves and CBS chief legal counsel Larry Tu were asked about the potential for a CBS-Viacom recombination, Tu said only that any major transactions would be reviewed by board and he noted that the board is mostly comprised of independent directors.
Separately, Redstone has been engaged in a pitched battle with Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. Last week the 92-year-old media mogul removed Dauman from his role as a board member of Redstone’s National Amusements holding company and from the trust that will inherit those holdings after Redstone’s death. Dauman on Monday filed a lawsuit to reverse his removal from the trust, arguing that Redstone “now lacks the capacity to have taken these steps.”
At the CBS shareholders meeting, voters elected the board’s recommended slate of 13 directors: Moonves, David Andelman, Joseph Califano Jr., William S. Cohen, Gary Countryman, Charles Gifford, Leonard Goldberg, Bruce Gordon, Linda Griego, Arnold Kopelson, Leslie Doug Morris, Shari Redstone and Sumner M. Redstone. Shareholders voted down a proposal that CBS adopt greenhouse gas emission goals.
During his prepared presentation, Moonves noted among other things that CBS has locked up rights to the NCAA March Madness tournament through 2032. “And I’m looking forward to renegotiating that deal as well,” quipped the 66-year-old exec.