Exclusive: CBS weighs share options for post-Redstone era - sources

Thu Apr 28, 2016 8:12pm EDT
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By Jessica Toonkel and Liana B. Baker

NEW YORK (Reuters) - CBS Corp's executives are talking to investment bankers about how their CEO and executive chairman, Les Moonves, can gain more control over the broadcaster after Sumner Redstone dies, or if he is declared mentally incompetent, said two sources familiar with the situation.

The New York-based company met with investment banks in recent months to discuss how it could buy CBS's voting shares from Redstone's National Amusements Inc, and collapse CBS's dual-class share structure, the sources told Reuters.

CBS and Viacom Inc both have dual-class share structures with 80 percent of their voting shares owned by National Amusements, a privately-held movie theater company controlled by the 92-year-old Redstone.

A seven-person trust, which includes Redstone's daughter Shari Redstone and Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, will take over the voting shares owned by National Amusements when the ailing billionaire dies.

The trust may also take control if Redstone is declared mentally incompetent as a result of a lawsuit brought by his former girlfriend in California.

CBS, home to such shows as "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Good Wife" and premium TV channel Showtime, wants to review all of its options before the trust takes over, the sources said.

The discussions, which have not previously been reported, are preliminary and ongoing, said the two sources, who did not want to be identified because they are not permitted to speak to the media. Another person familiar with the situation said CBS has not formally hired an investment bank to review its options.

CBS declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Shari Redstone, who sits on the boards of CBS and National Amusements, also declined comment.   Continued...

President and Chief Executive Officer of CBS Corporation Leslie Moonves poses for a portrait in his office in Studio City, California February 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni