Viacom board in power struggle over $55b group
THE battle for power at media group Viacom is heating up, with six independent investors vowing to fight any attempt to oust them.
At stake is the future of the US$40 billion (S$55 billion) broadcast entertainment business that controls hit brands like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, as well as Hollywood giant Paramount Pictures.
Billionaire Sumner Redstone has fired and replaced two long-time allies at the trust controlling Viacom and CBS, as part of the intensifying fight over who will control the two media companies when the 93-year-old dies.
"We will contest the purported removal if it comes, because we see that as our responsibility to the non-control shareholders of Viacom who own 90 per cent of the equity of the company - and to the legacy of a man we greatly admire and consider a dear friend," lead independent director Frederic Salerno wrote in a letter to shareholdersmade public on Monday.
Mr Salerno said he and governance and nominating committee chair Bill Schwartz have tried to meet with Mr Redstone for weeks to no avail.
"We feel the responsibility to challenge in court what we honestly believe would be legally flawed removals," he said, writing on behalf of six Viacom board members.
Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman and Viacom board member George Abrams, whom Mr Redstone removed from a seven-member trust meant to manage his empire if he dies or is declared incompetent, have alleged in a court petition that Mr Redstone is mentally incapacitated and unable to make decisions about his trust.
They accused his daughter Shari Redstone of abusing her power over her father to seize control of Viacom against his succession plans.