Sumner Redstone to Give Up Voting Role on Viacom Boardby and
Controlling shareholder, 93, to keep attending meetings
Ailing billionaire became chairman emeritus in February
Sumner Redstone, chairman emeritus and controlling shareholder of Viacom Inc., will give up his vote on the board after the media giant’s next annual meeting.
Redstone, 93, will retain his title and continue to participate in meetings after the Feb. 6 shareholder gathering, Viacom said Friday in a filing. The billionaire, who has been in frail health, relinquished his title as chairman in February.
Viacom surged as much as 4 percent to $36.32 on speculation that Redstone’s diminished role could make the company more open to a takeover or asset sales. Redstone had staunchly opposed plans by former Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman to sell a stake in the struggling Paramount Pictures unit earlier this year.
With her father ailing, Viacom Vice Chairman Shari Redstone won a legal battle with Dauman in August, allowing her to take the lead on major decisions involving the leadership and strategic direction of the company. This month, she installed Bob Bakish as CEO and scrapped a plan to merge Viacom with her family’s other major media holding, CBS Corp.
Now the Redstones are entrusting Bakish to restore the luster of Viacom’s best-known properties, including cable networks MTV and Nickelodeon and film studio Paramount. It’s possible Shari Redstone may share her father’s opposition to selling Viacom, said Paul Sweeney, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.
“But we don’t know for sure,” he said. “They might be less adamant against it.”
The Redstones’ holding company, National Amusements Inc., holds 80 percent of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS. Sumner Redstone owns 80 percent of National Amusements, with his daughter holding the rest. A family trust will oversee the elder Redstone’s holdings when he dies or is incapacitated. Dauman agreed to no longer serve on the trust in Viacom’s settlement with National Amusements earlier this year, paving the way for Shari Redstone and her allies to eventually oversee the holdings.