UPDATED: Shari Redstone rejected a statement by independent board members of Viacom that she is trying to take over the company despite her father’s long-term wishes that the media conglomerate have independent, non-family leadership.
The Redstone heir said through a spokesperson that her father, Sumner Redstone, has backed her in taking a leadership role in his companies, but that she is not interested in running Viacom herself.
The statement says Sumner Redstone showed his support for Shari in 2002, when he said in documents governing his trust that he supported her elevation to the non-executive chairmanship of both Viacom and CBS Corp. The younger Redstone also noted that she had been offered that same position at Viacom in February and turned it down.
But the heir to the Redstone fortune rejected the description of herself as someone driven to take over for her father.
“Shari has made it abundantly clear that she has no desire to manage Viacom nor Chair its Board,” said the statement, “and is fully engaged in running and growing her firm, Advancit Capital. What she has also made clear is that what she wants for Viacom is the best management in place, and strong, independent Directors who will properly oversee that management.”
The words came in response to a letter a day earlier from Fred Salerno, lead independent director of Viacom, saying that he and five other independent directors would fight any efforts by Shari Redstone or others to remove them from the board of the company. They acknowledged that no one had yet moved on their positions, but said “speculation” led them to believe they soon could be ousted.
“Salerno must have missed the widely reported fact that Sumner named Shari the non-executive Chair of both companies in the irrevocable Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust in 2002, ” said the statement from Shari Redstone’s team. “He must have also missed the portion of the February Viacom Board meeting where Shari was offered the Chair position and turned it down.”
Shari’s side also claimed that shareholders “have already spoken – they want new management at the top and strong directors with independent oversight on the Board. The Board should spend less time focusing on 1) Shari and 2) how to maintain their own directorships, and more time on a long term strategy to increase the value for shareholders and to develop a specific long-term plan to turn around the current state of Viacom.”
Shari Redstone, 62, and her father have had a challenging relationship, with the mogul sometimes speaking in support of his daughter and other times criticizing her and suggesting she could do little for the two conglomerates in which he owns a controlling stake.
The battle over the future of Viacom and CBS broke into the public in May, when two long time Sumner Redstone allies — Philippe Dauman and Viacom director George Abrams — received documents telling them they had been ejected from the board and trust of the Redstone-family holding company, National Amusements Inc.
Dauman and Abrams filed a lawsuit in a Massachusetts court, suggesting that they believed their ouster had been engineered by Shari Redstone, as part of her bid to take over her father’s holdings. A hearing in that court case is scheduled for next Tuesday.