Media

Tara Lachapelle is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering deals. She previously wrote an M&A column for Bloomberg News.

Finally, a little clarity on Viacom.

The Redstone family that controls the $18 billion media entertainment company has been locked in a months-long legal battle with CEO Philippe Dauman and other directors whom it abruptly pushed out this year.

On Thursday evening, a resolution appeared to be in sight. Bloomberg News reported that Viacom's board approved a settlement in which Dauman -- under whose leadership Viacom lost about half its value in the past two years -- will step down. The shares jumped more than 2 percent Friday morning. 

Vexed With Viacom
The corporate governance mess has distracted Viacom from being able to tackle its operational issues.
Source: Bloomberg

The apparent instigator throughout has been Shari Redstone, daughter of ailing media mogul Sumner Redstone, who is back at his side after patching up their once-strained relationship. Dauman's exit could allow her to set into motion a bigger plan she's thought to have for the Redstone empire, the other half of which is CBS: recombining the two companies. As I explained in the below video last month, a CBS-Viacom reunion could be great for shareholders: 

Viacom Chief Operating Officer Tom Dooley will serve as interim CEO of Viacom through at least Sept. 30 and could become the permanent replacement. But that doesn't preclude a transaction with CBS, which is valued at $23 billion and considered the stronger of the two companies. 

Dauman has also been trying to sell a 49 percent stake in Viacom's Paramount Pictures movie-studio division. And even though he's on his way out, he will have the opportunity to present his proposal to the board, people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News.

It's not a bad idea, but a larger deal between CBS and Viacom (or even Viacom and another suitor) would be much more meaningful for frustrated investors and a way to start fresh -- just as Sumner Redstone's breakup of CBS and Viacom was a decade ago.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Tara Lachapelle in New York at tlachapelle@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Beth Williams at bewilliams@bloomberg.net