CBS-Viacom Merger Back on Track After Shari Redstone Concession

The proposed CBS-Viacom merger appears to be back on track.

It was German politician Ludwig Erhard who once defined compromise as the art of dividing a cake in such a way that everyone believes he has the biggest piece. It’s a lesson Shari Redstone has learned full well.

The daughter of Sumner Redstone and media heiress whose family controls CBS Corp (CBS.N) and Viacom Inc (VIAB.O), has reportedly dropped her insistence that Viacom Chief Executive Officer Bob Bakish be CBS CEO Leslie Moonves’ second in command – as long as he gets a seat on the board of directors of the combined corporate entity.

The offer is an attempt by Redstone to resolve an impasse in the deal negotiations, Reuters reports. Redstone “has been trying to put together a deal that will keep Moonves, a 68-year-old media industry veteran credited with turning CBS around, at the helm, while positioning up-and-coming Bakish, 54, as Moonves’ successor.”

Moonves, who reportedly told Redstone that he would help the consolidated company for a minimum of 24 months before turning it over to CBS’s Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello, who will serve as president and chief operating officer of the combined company. Ianniello would take command once Moonves departs.

Redstone would like to see her concession restart negotiations over the merger that insiders claim had reached an impasse.

Moonves, reports the New York Post citing “sources,” is not likely to accede to Redstone’s new offer to have Bakish waiting in the wings. “Moonves is likely to press Redstone to have complete control over the management and board composition, sources said. Ianniello, Moonves’ right-hand man, has worked at Viacom and is being groomed to take over the top spot.”

Aside from the roll Bakish will play, CBS and Viacom have also butted heads over the stock exchange ratio to be used in a merger, about which a meeting of the minds is said to be imminent.

The proposed merger will reportedly meld CBS’s television network, local TV stations and Showtime cable network with Viacom’s cable networks, including MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, plus Paramount Pictures film studio.

Shari Redstone is no stranger to public clashes. In March, a judge in the state of California denied her bid to keep under seal a complaint filed by her father’s former girlfriend Manuela Herzer. It sought $100 million in damages and, according to the Post, alleged that Shari had “conspired” with her son to seize control of Viacom and CBS, both of which are controlled by her father, who has been ill. The lawsuit alleged that Redstone and her son listened in on Herzer’s private discussions with Sumner as well as others, bribed house staff to spy on Herzer, and made copies of some of Herzer’s financial documents.

By Howard M Reill

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