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Why Succession Planning Matters

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, 84, isn't the only corporate leader who's not ready to designate an heir apparent

Few would say Sumner Redstone is an ineffective business leader. But Redstone, who is chairman of both Viacom (VIA) and CBS (CBS), and presides over his family company National Amusements, which owns a controlling stake in both companies, is struggling—some would say spectacularly—with one critical component of family business leadership. With the recent news that he is reportedly asking his daughter and longtime heir apparent, Shari, to leave Viacom, it seems that even the famously shrewd Redstone has once again been outdone by the demands of succession planning.

Redstone has already driven his son from the business, a conflict that was settled in 2007 when he paid his offspring $240 million to relinquish his claims. And now the 84-year-old appears ready to force out his last, carefully cultivated candidate for keeping the family business in the family (see BusinessWeek, 8/6/07, "Redstone: 'Legacies Are for Dead People'").