Viacom Said to Abandon Plan to Sell Stake in Paramount Pictures

Viacom Inc. is no longer actively pursuing the sale of a stake in Paramount Pictures, according to people familiar with the matter, after the owners decided the movie studio is one of the company’s key assets.

The New York-based media giant said in February it hired PJT Partners to help with a possible sale of the stake, after being approached by investors who wanted to buy part of Paramount. PJT is no longer doing work on the process, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the matter isn’t public. The deal could still be revived at a later date, they said.

A representative for Viacom declined to comment.

While selling a stake in Paramount would have helped Viacom pay off some of its $12 billion in debt, it was seen as a pet project of former Chairman Philippe Dauman, who exited this month as part of a legal settlement. Sumner Redstone’s National Amusements Inc. -- Viacom’s controlling shareholder -- opposed the idea of a deal, saying it would undermine shareholders’ interests.

Sumner’s daughter, Shari Redstone, has taken on a prominent role in the boardroom since her family replaced Dauman and installed five new board members.

The board met on Wednesday and Thursday at its New York headquarters to discuss budgets for the coming year and Viacom’s capital structure, people familiar with the matter said. No announcement has yet been made on whether the company will cut its dividend or take other measures to address liquidity.

Dauman, 62, had said a sale could generate as much as $4 billion in after-tax proceeds for Viacom. Tencent Holdings Ltd. was among companies that looked at buying the Paramount stake, Bloomberg reported in May. Dalian Wanda Group Co. has also been named as a potential suitor.