After months of drama surrounding the fate of Sumner Redstone and his media empire, Shari Redstone appears to be asserting herself as the key player in setting the future course for Viacom and CBS Corp., which are controlled through the family’s National Amusements holding company.
The Wall Street Journal reported late Sunday that Redstone in late 2014 rejected a $1 billion buyout offer from her 92-year-old father for her 20% stake in National Amusements. The deal would have called for Shari Redstone to give up her existing right to succeed her father as chairman of Viacom and CBS Corp. upon his death.
The Journal also reported that Shari Redstone has an agreement with CBS Corp. president-CEO Leslie Moonves that he will be named chairman of CBS after her father’s death. That understanding is believed to be a private written agreement between Moonves and Shari Redstone, who at present is vice chairman of the boards of both CBS Corp. and Viacom.
The Journal reported that Shari Redstone has no such agreement with Philippe Dauman, president-CEO of Viacom. Dauman’s performance has been under scrutiny in the past year as Viacom shares have sunk and the company’s core cable networks have suffered ratings declines and subscriber losses.
After a period of estrangement, Shari Redstone and her family are spending the holidays with her father at his home in L.A.’s Beverly Park area.
The report is sure to add fuel to speculation that Shari Redstone and Dauman are heading for a boardroom showdown over the future of Viacom. Sources familiar with the situation say Redstone has made no secret of her concern about Dauman’s stewardship of Viacom’s Paramount Pictures and cable channels during the past decade since her father named him CEO of Viacom in 2006.
Both Shari Redstone and Dauman are part of the seven-member board that will oversee the trust that will inherit Sumner Redstone’s National Amusement shares, which give him about 80% of the voting power in both Viacom and CBS. Redstone’s son, Tyler Korff is also a member, as are four lawyers long associated with Sumner Redstone.
Moonves is not a board member of the Redstone family trust, which may have been the spark for his agreement regarding the CBS chairman post with Shari Redstone. Both Moonves and Dauman have clauses in their employment agreements that allow them to leave with generous severance packages if someone other than Sumner Redstone is named chairman of their respective companies.
Reps for Viacom and CBS Corp. declined to comment. Shari Redstone issued a statement Monday afternoon through spokeswoman Nancy Sterling: “It appears that third parties accessed and then disclosed to the Wall Street Journal highly confidential documents. We do not know what documents were disclosed and we have no further comment.”
The Journal report comes as attorneys for Sumner Redstone head to court again in Los Angeles to defend the mogul against efforts by his former companion, Manuela Herzer, to reclaim control of his health care decisions.
Herzer initiated legal action last month claiming that Redstone has become a “living ghost” and is mentally incapacitated, which raised investor hackles about his corporate role at Viacom and CBS. Herzer was ousted from Redstone’s home earlier this year, a move that reportedly paved the way for the recent warming of relations between the mogul and his daughter.
According to the Journal, the buyout deal that Shari Redstone rebuffed in 2014 also included a provision that she would not challenge the gifts of as much as tens of millions of dollars that her father was believed to have established for Herzer and another former companion, Sydney Holland. It’s unclear if those arrangements have changed now that both women have left Sumner Redstone’s home.
In addition to serving as president of National Amusements, Shari Redstone is co-founder and managing partner of Advancit Capital, a new media-focused venture capital fund she launched in 2011.