Viacom topper sez he won’t be Web surfer

Karmazin says co. does not need a Netco

Viacom chief operating officer Mel Karmazin said Wednesday the media conglom can reap “tremendous rewards from the Internet without being owned by or owning” a big online company, downplaying persistent rumors that Viacom may have giant dot.com Yahoo! in its sights.

He told shareholders at the annual meeting in Gotham that he’d love to buy a Spanish-lingo broadcast outlet, but “stocks that are currently involved in reaching that audience are trading at multiples that are … far higher than what Viacom would ever be willing to pay.” A number of showbiz congloms including Walt Disney have eyed Univision but found it too pricey.

Turning on the charm, Karmazin sympathized with a stockholder angry that her Viacom Class B shares — which she inherited from Paramount — carry no voting rights. “I’m like you. I only have non-voting stock,” he said. He became one of Viacom’s biggest single shareholders when he sold it CBS in an all-stock merger.

No voting

“During negotiations for the deal, I found that there was no way Sumner (Redstone, Viacom chairman-CEO) was interested in ceding the voting control of the company. There was no way that was happening.” He’s comfortable with that: “My agenda is exactly the same as Sumner’s. We’re in lockstep.”

Another holder complained that Viacom pays no dividends, especially given the abundant cash flow Karmazin and Redstone said they use to reinvest in the company and buy back shares. “I see quite a few gray-haired people here. We need the money in this world, not the next,” the shareholder said.

“We gave you danish,” joked Karamazin.

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