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CBS sues controlling shareholder Redstone to stop Viacom merger plan

15 May 2018

More important recent Viacom, Inc.

"In a move that escalates an internal battle for control, CBS has filed a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court against Shari Redstone, Sumner Redstone and National Amusements, Inc., now the controlling stakeholder for CBS", The Hollywood Reporter's THR, Esq., reports.

Media analyst Barton Crockett spotted CBS's disclosure of an outside party's interest in its lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining offer to prevent Redstone from taking steps to replace directors or interfere with a board vote on a proposal that would reduce the family's voting control over the network.

Instead, National Amusements says this is about "incidents of bullying and intimidation" related to a CBS director dating back to 2016 that it's tried to handle privately, and that CBS's suit "continues to enable and empower such conduct".

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Viacom has made it no secret that it wants Moonves at the helm of a combined company, but the talks between the two have hit an impasse regarding the line of succession.

That dividend would dilute National Amusements' (and Shari Redstone's) voting interest to about 17% from a current 79%.

USA media giant CBS filed suit on Monday, alleging that majority shareholder Shari Redstone is seeking to "force" a merger with rival Viacom on unfavorable terms. It depends on which stock you own, and which scraps of information you believe.

CBS and Viacom formed special committees to explore the merger in February. CBS may or may not have better options. "CBS's stock price has dropped from almost $70 per share to almost $50 per share since merger talks were reinstated-a loss of approximately $7 billion in market cap suffered by the Class B stockholders". The complaint revealed that CBS could turn from acquirer to target should Moonves get his way.

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"(CBS is) at least sending the signal and creating evidence they had the best interests of everyone in mind, and not her", said Brian Quinn, a professor at the Boston College Law School, referring to Shari Redstone. That would make sense.

The undisclosed party is US wireless carrier Verizon Communications Inc, according to two sources familiar with the situation who requested anonymity to disclose confidential details. Plus, CBS's other competitors, Disney and Comcast Corp., have their own battle underway to get their hands on some $50 billion worth of 21st Century Fox Inc. assets.

Indeed, CBS shareholders appear to be more content without the weight of a relaunched Viacom to worry about.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

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CBS sues controlling shareholder Redstone to stop Viacom merger plan