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Sumner Redstone says Viacom, CBS succession not decided

Sumner Redstone says CBS, Viacom succession will be decided by seven-member trust

Succession at two huge media companies -- Viacom and CBS -- has long been a topic of curiosity, particularly as the health of the companies' chairman, Sumner Redstone, has declined in recent years.

Redstone turns 92 later this month. Although he occasionally has been seen at restaurants around Beverly Hills and Hollywood -- those outings have become less frequent during the last year.

During the last week, several media reports have speculated that Redstone's health has become increasingly compromised, and that his daughter, Shari Redstone, was in line to succeed him.

However, a statement attributed to the mogul released Thursday said such arrangements have not been ironed out.

"Decisions about who will succeed me as chairman of CBS and Viacom will be made by the boards of the respective companies, and not by any individual," according to the Sumner Redstone statement.

"Despite press reports to the contrary, such decisions have not yet been made," the statement said.

Succession is a high-stakes affair because it involves the future of two publicly traded companies, CBS and Viacom.  The companies have different directors, different investors and different points of view.

Redstone has two adult children. His daughter Shari Redstone, 61, is an accomplished executive who runs Advancit Capital, which makes investments in new media companies. She is vice chairman of both CBS and Viacom's boards but she is not involved in the day-to-day management of the two companies.

"After my death, my ownership interest in the companies will be overseen by a group of seven trustees who will make fiduciary decisions based solely on the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust," the Sumner Redstone statement said. "Until that time, I will continue to make all such decisions."

CBS is managed by its chief executive Leslie Moonves. Viacom is managed by its chief executive Philippe Dauman, who once was Sumner Redstone's attorney. Dauman is one of the trustees of a seven-member board that will one day make decisions about the Redstone empire.

Shari Redstone also is designated to become a trustee, as is one of her three children. The group of trustees also includes two Boston lawyers. 

Sumner Redstone's son, Brent, left the family business many years ago after a falling-out with his father. However, Brent Redstone's children are believed to be beneficiaries of the Redstone estate.

Complicating matters, at least on the surface, has been the involvement of Sumner Redstone's live-in girlfriend Sydney Holland and her friend, Manuela Herzer, who have been Redstone's companions in recent years.

"As I have always said, I believe strongly in professional management and appropriate corporate governance," said the statement attributed to Redstone.

The statement was released by Redstone's attorney, Leah Bishop, of Loeb & Loeb and distributed by the New York public relations firm Sard Verbinnen & Co., which has handled news related to Redstone's family business, National Amusements, from time to time.

Twitter: @MegJamesLAT

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