Viacom’s Dauman Is Said to Have Held Exit, Settlement Talks

  • COO Tom Dooley would take over as interim chief executive
  • Talks would end litigation with Redstone family in 3 states

Viacom Inc. Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman has held talks about leaving the media company and settling litigation with controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements Inc., a person with knowledge of the matter said.

If a deal is reached, Thomas Dooley, chief operating officer, would take over as interim CEO of Viacom, owner of the cable TV networks MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. Dauman would receive about $83 million in severance, according to data from the company and the Bloomberg Pay Index.

Viacom board member George Abrams, a longtime attorney for Redstone, doesn’t want to settle, the person said. Dauman and Abrams are challenging their removal from the board of National Amusements and from a trust that will one day oversee Redstone’s holdings, including stakes in Viacom and CBS Corp., media companies worth $40 billion.

A spokesman for Viacom declined to comment. Abrams didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Dauman and Abrams have alleged in a Massachusetts case that Redstone, 93, is mentally impaired and is being manipulated by his daughter Shari. A judge there ruled last week that the case may proceed and ordered an October trial. At the same time, Viacom independent director Fred Salerno is suing Redstone in Delaware, while Redstone is pursuing his own litigation in California.

A spokeswoman for Shari Redstone declined to comment on the settlement talks.

Dauman’s departure could end litigation playing out in the three states. The suits, involving some 43 attorneys, have been a major distraction for Viacom board members and executives, and have kept Dauman from pursuing key initiatives, including the sale of a minority stake in the company’s Paramount Pictures film division and a video streaming deal.

The fighting began in May, when an attorney for Redstone notified Dauman and Abrams they were being removed from the board of National Amusements, the family company that controls 80 percent of the voting stock in Viacom and CBS, and from the trust.

A month later, the two men and three other Viacom board members were notified by National Amusements that they were off Viacom’s board as well. Redstone cited his opposition to Dauman’s plan to sell a 49 percent stake in Paramount and a loss of trust in management.

News of the settlement discussions were reported earlier Tuesday by the Wall Street Journal.

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