Viacom board rejected offer for director to meet Sumner Redstone
By Jessica Toonkel and Dan Levine
NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Viacom Inc's (VIAB.O: Quote) board rejected an offer by Sumner Redstone's attorneys to have one of Viacom's independent directors meet face-to-face with the 93-year-old media mogul to get an understanding of his views on the media company, a spokesman for Redstone confirmed on Monday.
The board's dismissal of a possible route toward a settlement shows how far apart the two sides are in the legal fight for control over Redstone's $40 billion media empire, amid questions over whether the magnate is making his own decisions or is even of sound enough mind to do so.
Redstone offered to meet Viacom independent director Charles Phillips in the days after Viacom lead independent director Fred Salerno filed suit over Redstone's June 16 move to oust him and four other directors, including Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, from the Viacom board, Reuters exclusively reported Monday.
Last week Salerno vetoed the idea, opting instead to continue with litigation, sources told Reuters.
Salerno and Phillips declined to comment. In a statement, Viacom did not confirm or deny it received such an offer from Redstone. But did say it would be wrong to suggest such a meeting could "actually assess" Redstone's capacity.
Salerno has sent a number of letters to Redstone over the past several weeks requesting a meeting with him to discuss his views of the business, and to go over the rationale for Dauman's planned stake sale of Viacom's Paramount movie studio.
"We are quite concerned that your voice - and views - are not being heard," Salerno wrote in a June 14 letter, made public by Viacom.
The fact that the Viacom board rejected Redstone's offer of a meeting with Phillips showed claims by Viacom executives and Salerno that they are being blocked from meeting with Redstone are "fiction," said Mike Lawrence, a spokesman for Redstone, in a statement. Continued...