On Wednesday, CBS announced that media mogul Sumner Redstone is stepping down as executive chairman, replaced by CBS chief executive Les Moonves. Redstone, 92, controls about 80 percent of voting stock in both CBS and Viacom — parent company of MTV, Comedy Central, and Paramount Pictures, among other media brands — and Viacom's board is meeting Thursday to discuss Redstone's tenure as Viacom's executive chairman. The board is expected to tap Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman to replace Redstone, but Redstone's daughter, CBS and Viacom Vice Chairwoman Shari Redstone, opposes his appointment, as do some activist investors.
Redstone, who often said he expected to live forever and would never retire, has not publicly laid out a plan of succession. Dauman and Shari Redstone are among the seven trustees charged with running his holding company, National Amusements, should he die or be declared incapacitated, and Dauman is also Redstone's primary health care agent. That's only the tip of what The New York Times' Emily Steel calls the "Shakespearean twists and turns" in the battle for control of Redstone's media empire. He is also facing a legal battle from former companion Manuela Herzer, who alleges that Redstone is a "living ghost" suffering though an "ineffable tragic mental collapse." Redstone denies that charge.
Starting in the 1950s, Redstone started turning his family movie theater chain, National Amusements, into a media giant, buying Viacom in 1987, then Paramount, and finally merging CBS and Viacom in 1999, before splitting them up again in 2006. He submitted his resignation to the CBS board on Tuesday, The New York Times reports, and the CBS board offered the position to Shari Redstone, who declined and nominated Moonves. Moonves was reportedly approved unanimously. The succession at Viacom is expected to be much messier.