Redstone makes concessions on Viacom CEO to clinch CBS merger

Shari Redstone, the media heiress whose family controls CBS and Viacom, has offered CBS CEO Leslie Moonves to drop her demands for Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to be his No. 2 following a merger, as long as Bakish sits on the combined company’s board, people familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday.

The offer is an attempt by Redstone to resolve an impasse in the deal negotiations. Redstone has been trying to put together a deal that will keep Moonves, a 68-year-old media industry veteran credited with turning CBS around, at the helm, while positioning up-and-coming Bakish, 54, as Moonves’ successor.

Moonves has agreed to run the combined company for at least two years, as long as CBS Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will be president and chief operating officer of the combined company, so he can succeed him, sources have previously said.

Redstone, daughter of media mogul Sumner Redstone, has offered not to give Bakish any executive role in the combined company, but still wants him to sit on the board of directors and eventually succeed Moonves, the sources said on Friday.

Moonves does not want Bakish to be part of the combined company at all, because he is seeking as much autonomy as possible in running the combined company, said one of the sources.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Bob Bakish, president and chief executive officer of Viacom Inc., walks the grounds during the Allen & Co. Media and Technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 14, 2017.

As a result of the impasse over Bakish’s role, CBS executives have serious doubts that a deal will happen, the source said. CBS and Viacom have also disagreed about the stock exchange ratio that should be used in a merger, although the two sides are making progress on that front, the sources added.

The sources asked not to be identified because the matter is confidential. CBS, Viacom, and National Amusements Inc, the company of Shari Redstone, declined to comment.

Redstone offered her concessions earlier this week in a meeting with Moonves that included Richard Parsons, who recently joined the CBS board and is acting as a conduit between the two sides, the sources said.

There has not been any agreement about the composition of a combined company’s board, the sources said.

Ten of the 14 director nominees for consideration at this year’s CBS annual meeting are 70 or older. The average age is 72. The average for companies in the S&P 500 Index as a whole is 62. Two of Viacom’s directors are 70 or older, according to the company’s proxy.

CBS reported first-quarter earnings on Thursday that topped revenue and profit estimates.

“The strategy that we have laid out for you is clearly working and the good news is that there is much more to come,” Moonves said on the analyst call.

Source – cnbc.com

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