Leslie Moonves: CBS, Viacom Recombination Discussions Still in ‘Very Early Stages’

As CBS unveiled impressive revenue and profit growth in its third quarter, CBS Corp. chairman-CEO Leslie Moonves made it clear that the company is not rushing into a reunion with Viacom.

CBS board members are studying the possibility of a recombination with Viacom, the other half of Sumner Redstone’s media empire. Those internal discussions “are still in the early stages,” Moonves told Wall Street analysts Thursday during the Eye’s third quarter conference call. He sounded a note of caution about whether a deal will come to fruition and emphasized that CBS’ future on its own looks very bright.

“While the timetable and outcome are unclear our strategy is not,” Moonves said. “If it looks right and is structured properly, (a Viacom merger) could be an attractive opportunity. If not, we are very excited about our prospects.”

Moonves once again vowed that CBS’ board will exert independence as it considers a possible Viacom transaction. Redstone’s National Amusements controls both companies with 80% of the voting shares. But Moonves asserted that the company “will only do a deal if it’s in the best interests of CBS and all of its shareholders.”

In late September, National Amusements urged the boards of Viacom and CBS to study the possibility of reuniting, a decade after the companies were split up by Redstone. Viacom has endured a period of turmoil and transition amid a legal battle between Redstone and former chairman-CEO Philippe Dauman and challenging business conditions for its key studio and cable assets.

Shari Redstone, the daughter of Sumner Redstone and vice chair of CBS and Viacom, has pushed for the merger in order for Moonves and his team to take over the management of Viacom.

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