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CBS, Viacom Stocks Climb After Report Signals Progress Toward Merger

The stock prices for CBS Corp. and Viacom shot up on Friday following reports of progress in the movement to join the two companies.

As of 12:35 p.m. PT Friday, CBS stock was selling at 52.93, up 8.6% from its opening price. Viacom was trading at $30.81, up 4.9%.

Reuters reported on Friday that Shari Redstone, whose family business National Amusements owns a controlling stake in both companies, had made an offer to CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves to abandon her demand that Viacom CEO Bob Bakish be Moonves’ second in command in a combined company. According to the report, which cited multiple unnamed sources, Redstone communicated to Moonves that she would be satisfied if Bakish were offered a seat on the board of a combined CBS and Viacom.

Bakish’s role post-merger had become a major stumbling block, threatening the Redstones’ renewed effort to bring the two companies together. Redstone is reported to have favored a structure that would position Bakish as Moonves’ heir apparent, while Moonves was adamant about keeping his leadership team from CBS intact. Most Wall Street insiders consider Moonves’ leadership key to positioning a combined company for success.

CBS in March made what many perceived to be a lowball offer to acquire Viacom for roughly $12 billion, slightly below Viacom’s market cap that day. Viacom’s counter-offered, seeking a higher stock-swap ratio that would add $2.8 billion to its valuation.

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