Things keep getting stranger at Viacom. CEO Philippe Dauman and controlling stockholder Sumner Redstone are embroiled in a legal battle over Dauman’s removal from the Redstone family trust. Now, the two sides are communicating through open letters.
On Tuesday, board member Frederic Salerno — an ally of Dauman’s — wrote an open letter to Redstone, stating that he and Dauman have been repeatedly denied access to the 93-year-old mogul. He also wrote of his fears that Redstone is now surrounded by lawyers who have empowered his daughter, Shari Redstone, in violation of Redstone’s long-standing wishes.
Today, Redstone fired back in a brief response:
I reviewed your note. I no longer trust Philippe or those who support him. I am being sued by my fellow board members and my wishes are being ignored. I am determined to act in the best interests of the company and all of its shareholders. I do not trust you or the current board to do the same. So there is no doubt, Rob Klieger and Michael Tu are my attorneys and are acting at my direction.
Dauman is openly trying to pursue a minority investor for Paramount Pictures, in defiance of Redstone’s publicly stated wishes on the matter. Redstone is in declining health and Dauman has not seen him since March.
There’s nothing terribly new in the latest letter. Redstone has previously been quoted as saying that Dauman is doing a “bad job” running Viacom, and that the board is not listening to him. Given his very public dissatisfaction, the remarkable thing is that Dauman and his allies are still clinging to power.
Update: And Salerno fires back. “We could clear a lot of this up if Sumner would share his thoughts with me face-to-face,” Salerno says.