Viacom and CBS Are Preparing to Announce Steps to Explore Merger

CBS Forms Special Committee to Evaluate Viacom Deal

Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. are preparing to announce Thursday that they’re in the process of setting up special board committees and hiring advisers to explore a potential merger, according to a person familiar with the matter.

CBS’s board is meeting Thursday and is likely to move forward with a plan to form a committee, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing private information. The details are still being finalized and the plans could still change.

CBS and Viacom, which split into separately traded companies in 2006, established similar committees to explore a recombination in September 2016 at the behest of Shari Redstone, the daughter of controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone. The deal was abandoned later that year, but Shari Redstone has recently been pushing to reconsider the move as major competitors such as Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc. get bigger through multibillion-dollar deals.

Thursday’s gathering is the first time the CBS board has met since the renewal of conversations about a potential merger with Viacom, which the Redstones also control. Shari Redstone has held preliminary conversations about a deal with CBS Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Leslie Moonves, as well as with Viacom boss Bob Bakish.

CBS declined to comment, and Viacom had no immediate comment.

While Moonves has also met with companies including Verizon Communications Inc. and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. about potential deals, people familiar with the matter have said, he’s hamstrung by the Redstone family’s controlling stake. The Redstones’ holding company, National Amusements Inc., holds 80 percent of the voting stock of Viacom and CBS.

CBS has a market value of about $23 billion, while Viacom is valued at $13.7 billion.

— With assistance by Christopher Palmeri, and Gerry Smith

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