The companies will be asked to form independent board committees to examine the possible marriage in the next few days, according to an individual with knowledge. The news comes on the heels of some major executive shake-ups. Last week, Viacom’s interim CEO Tom Dooley announced he was stepping down, while Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures, was forced out of the struggling studio. Viacom, which owns MTV, VH1, and Comedy Central, along with Paramount, has seen its share price plunge in the midst of ratings declines, a bad box office run, and a bruising legal fight that resulted in the ouster of former chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman.
CBS and Viacom were cleaved in two in 2006, with Leslie Moonves running CBS, while Dauman held the reins at Viacom. Moonves has been widely lauded for his programming acumen, and if a merger takes place, will be tasked with reinvigorating Viacom’s cable channels and building up its film slate. He would also have to clean up the books. Viacom is heavily leveraged. It has $900 million of debt, due in the next seven months, that it must refinance, and $1 billion it needs to pay by the end of 2018.
In a statement, a CBS spokesman offered, “As we have said many times before, CBS will take no action that is not in the best interest of all of its shareholders.” A spokesman for Viacom declined comment.
Reuters first broke the news.