Shari Redstone has ‘no desire’ to run Viacom, says spokesperson


More volleys were exchanged Tuesday in the battle for control of media company Viacom Inc. as a representative of Shari Redstone denounced statements made this week by Viacom’s lead independent board member.

Viacom director Frederic Salerno on Monday wrote that Viacom’s board would fight any attempt by the family of Sumner Redstone to shake up Viacom’s board. In a letter to Viacom investors and employees, Salerno indicated that board members did not believe Redstone had been “acting of his own free will.”

Salerno added that when Redstone was in good health, he told others that he did not want his daughter, Shari Redstone, to control Viacom or CBS Corp. and, thus, set up a seven-member trust that would make decisions about his shares in the two companies.


A representative of Shari Redstone on Monday shot back:

“Shari has made it abundantly clear that she has no desire to manage Viacom nor chair its board, and [she] is fully engaged in running and growing her firm, Advancit Capital,” said Nancy Sterling, a spokesperson for Shari Redstone.

“What she has also made clear is that what she wants for Viacom is the best management in place, and strong, independent directors who will properly oversee that management,” Sterling said.

Viacom shares have fallen more than 45% over the last two years amid ratings struggles and a paucity of hits from the company’s Melrose Avenue movie studio, Paramount Pictures.

“Shari has made it abundantly clear that she has no desire to manage Viacom nor chair its board...”

— Nancy Sterling, spokesperson for Shari Redstone

Sumner Redstone is said to be opposed to a plan by Viacom Chief Executive Philippe Dauman to sell a minority stake in Paramount to a foreign investor. The Paramount sale has become a potent wedge issue in the struggle for control, and Viacom’s board is taking steps to prepare for what could turn into a bitter proxy battle over who serves on the board.

The Redstone family controls nearly 80% of the Class A voting shares through its investment vehicle, National Amusements. Sumner Redstone currently controls National Amusements, and thus, he has wide latitude in deciding Viacom’s leadership.


Shari Redstone has served as vice chair of the board for several years, and when her father stepped down as chairman in February, because of his poor health, she declined an invitation to serve as non-executive chair. In her statement, Sterling said that Viacom shareholders have indicated that “they want new management ‎at the top and strong directors with independent oversight on the board.”

A spokesman for Viacom responded with a statement on behalf of the company: “Mr. Salerno’s letter is clear and speaks for itself.”

Shari Redstone has been unhappy with the performance of Viacom, which has lost several key managers in recent years. She is the most prominent opponent of Dauman, who has managed Viacom for nearly 10 years.

“The board should spend less time focusing on 1) Shari and 2) how to maintain their own directorships, and more time on a long-term strategy to increase the value for shareholders and to develop a specific long-term plan to turn around the current state of Viacom,” Sterling said in the statement.

In his letter, Salerno noted that Viacom’s independent board members also were not pleased with Viacom’s struggles.

“The board is not happy with where Viacom’s performance stands,” Salerno said. “We know Viacom needs to do better – and we are very focused on that objective and on the need for management to drive it.”


Viacom Class B shares closed up 13 cents to $44.37 on Tuesday.