Viacom names CEO Dauman as chair as Redstone exits; daughter protests

Thu Feb 4, 2016 7:21pm EST
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By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Viacom Inc's board of directors named Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman as executive chairman, replacing majority owner Sumner Redstone, overriding calls for an independent board chief from Redstone's daughter, who voted against Dauman.

Viacom (VIAB.O: Quote) announced on Thursday that the ailing 92-year-old Redstone was becoming chairman emeritus, a day after CBS Corp (CBS.N: Quote) said Redstone, also the CBS majority owner, was stepping down as executive chairman and being replaced by CEO Leslie Moonves.

The boards of CBS and Viacom have been discussing Redstone stepping down for several weeks, according to two sources familiar with the situation.

Thursday's decision puts Viacom firmly in the hands of Dauman, a longtime associate of Sumner Redstone. His daughter, Shari, said in a statement she wanted someone who was not a member of her father's trust to run Viacom, which would have excluded Dauman.

Dauman and Moonves are natural rivals as leaders of the two halves of the empire that Redstone separated 10 years ago. After Redstone's eventual death, analysts expect several scenarios, such as selling the companies in pieces, leaving them as they are, or reuniting them, which could pit the executives against one another.

Sumner Redstone and the rest of Viacom's board voted in favor of Dauman, and only Shari Redstone voted against him, according to a source close to the company. Viacom said Shari Redstone turned down the non-executive chairman role.

Shari Redstone will "continue to advocate for what she believes to be in the best interests of Viacom shareholders,” she said in a statement.

Viacom shares initially rose sharply, but later pared gains, closing up 1.5 percent at $45.34 on Nasdaq.   Continued...

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman walks down a sidewalk during a break on the first day of the Allen and Co. media conference in Sun Valley, Idaho July 9, 2014.  REUTERS/Rick Wilking