CFO designate exits Viacom

CBS seeks post-split financial chief as Reynolds ankles

Viacom television stations group prexy Fred Reynolds has ankled the company in a surprise move that leaves post-split CBS Corp. without a chief financial officer.

Reynolds had been tapped by CBS topper Leslie Moonves to become CFO of CBS Corp. after the split-off from Viacom, expected to be completed by early next year.

Departure throws open what are essentially two jobs at the new CBS Corp.: CFO and president of the 40 CBS owned-and-operated stations.

A CBS spokesman said the company would search inside and out for a replacement. One likely internal candidate to head the stations is group exec VP and chief operating officer Dennis Swanson.

Viacom recently appointed ad exec Michael Dolan as CFO of Viacom Inc. Dolan is expected to become CFO of the new company to be led by Tom Freston, which will retain the name Viacom Inc. and house Paramount and the MTV Networks.

Viacom execs say that since they just completed a search for a CFO, they have a well-developed list of potential candidates to replace Reynolds.

Reynolds will leave Viacom in early August to become prexy-COO of Evercore Partners, a $1.2 billion private equity firm with substantial investments in media and energy.

In 1999 Evercore bought American Media Inc., publisher of the National Enquirer, Star and the Weekly World News, for $835 million and reorganized the company into one of the nation’s leading publishers of celebrity journalism.

It then acquired Weider Publications, which included Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness and Men’s Health, for $350 million. Company could be spun off in an IPO later this year.

“This is one of the most important developments in the history of our firm,” Evercore chairman and former deputy Treasury secretary Roger Altman said of the Reynolds appointment.

Reynolds spent 11 years as CFO of Westinghouse Electric, CBS Corp. and then Viacom. Prior to Westinghouse, he spent 12 years as CFO of PepsiCo.

Some Wall Streeters said they were caught off-guard by news of Reynolds’ departure.

“We were surprised by the announcement and view it as a setback for the future CBS Corp. Mr. Reynolds has a reputation as a talented executive with strong leadership abilities and sound financial skills,” Merrill Lynch media analyst Jessica Reif Cohen wrote in a note to investors.

“The timing also is less than ideal, as the company will now need to devote resources away from the pending split,” Cohen wrote.

Viacom and CBS execs disputed that Reynolds’ departure would be a setback or disrupt the timing of the breakup.

On a positive note, Cohen agreed that the recent search for Viacom CFO should provide a short list of viable candidates for the CBS job.

Viacom shares closed up 23¢ at $32.81 on Tuesday.

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