- Board concerned Redstone’s voice, views ‘not being heard’
- Salerno’s comments come in letter to Redstone Tuesday
Viacom Inc. lead independent director Fred Salerno asked controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone to let the company look into potential deals to sell a stake in Paramount Pictures, the film studio behind “The Godfather” and “Titanic.”
“It is important for all shareholders that we are able to pursue this investigation without any new obstacles that may cause potential investors to shy away from the process,” Salerno wrote in a letter Tuesday that doubled as a plea for help and a public airing of grievances.
People speaking on behalf of the 93-year-old Redstone have listed his opposition to such a sale as a reason he removed Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman and director George Abrams from the board of his holding company, National Amusements Inc., and the family trust that will govern his assets when he dies or is incapacitated.
Dauman and the Viacom board are locked in a bitter, public dispute with the Redstone family. Dauman has said Redstone isn’t well and is being manipulated by his daughter Shari. Redstone recently changed Viacom bylaws to prohibit any action involving Paramount without unanimous approval of the board on which he and his daughter sit. The fight has spilled over into courtrooms in Massachusetts and California.
Viacom board members haven’t been permitted to see Redstone, which fuels their suspicion that he isn’t well, Salerno said. He cited a visit by Redstone and his daughter to the Paramount lot in Hollywood last week in which the elder Redstone didn’t get out of his car.
“We are quite concerned that your voice -- and views -- are not being heard,” Salerno wrote in the letter. Statements from people who represent Redstone “suggest you think we intend to sell Paramount lock, stock, and barrel, or that we would do it in the middle of the night and hide it from you. Nothing could be further from the truth,” Salerno said.
A spokesman for Sumner Redstone declined to comment.