Viacom CEO Dauman Seeks to Reassure Workers as Legal Brawl Rages

  • Memo highlights initiatives presented to board last week
  • Company still exploring partnership with Paramount: Dauman

Viacom Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman sought to reassure employees that business should go on as usual amid a public legal battle involving the company’s controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone.

Dauman’s plan for a turnaround in advertising sales and an increase in movie production will put the company on better footing, the CEO said in a memo to Viacom workers.

“We understand that this is a distraction and it can create speculation and concern,” Dauman said in the memo. “We want you to know that we are keeping our focus squarely on what matters most to all of us - moving our company rapidly and successfully into the future.”

Dauman has sued to block his removal from the Redstone family trust, arguing that the move goes against the well-established plans of the 92-year-old billionaire. Dauman and George Abrams, another trustee who was removed last week, filed a complaint in state court in Canton, Massachusetts, on Monday challenging changes made to the trust by a lawyer claiming to represent Redstone. The suit, which accuses Redstone’s daughter Shari of manipulation, asks a judge to block any action to remove them as trustees.

Redstone’s declining health over the past two years has set off a power struggle in the Viacom board room and in his $20 million mansion. The war between Shari Redstone and Dauman comes as the company struggles to cope with declining cable TV ratings and plummeting stock prices and may impede plans to sell a minority stake in Paramount movie studio to outside investors.

Redstone fired back, filing a petition in Los Angeles state court seeking to confirm the validity of his actions in removing Dauman and Abrams.

The case is Dauman v. Redstone, 16-E0020, Massachusetts Probate and Family Court, Norfolk County (Canton).

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.