Incoming Viacom CEO plans investor campaign as shakeup looms

Fri Aug 19, 2016 7:33pm EDT
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By Jessica Toonkel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Viacom Inc (VIAB.O: Quote) prepares for the impending departure of CEO Philippe Dauman, his interim replacement, Thomas Dooley, is planning to reach out to investors, setting a new tone for a company that has kept communications minimal.

Dooley plans to set up meetings between shareholders and heads of Viacom networks, which include Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon, two people familiar with the situation said on Friday. The move to engage is not unusual for a new CEO but marks a stark about-face from the closed, secretive culture that has surrounded Dauman and the $17 billion media company, investors and analysts told Reuters.

Viacom has been embroiled in a legal battle between Dauman and some members of its board on one side and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone, on the other, over control of Redstone's $40 billion media empire, which includes Viacom and CBS Corp (CBS.N: Quote). Redstone's privately held movie theater company, National Amusements Inc, owns 80 percent of the voting shares of both Viacom and CBS.

On Friday, Dooley told employees the two sides had come to an agreement under which he will replace Dauman, 62, who will stay on as executive chair until Sept. 13, according to a memo seen by Reuters.

Dauman will be allowed to present a plan to sell a minority stake in Paramount Pictures to the Viacom board, the sources said. Dauman will receive about $72 million under the agreement, they said.

Dooley, 59, has long been Dauman's right-hand man. In the memo, he said he will stay on as interim CEO until Sept. 30, at which time the board will make a decision on succession plans.

Under the settlement, the board would add five directors that National Amusements put forward in June, bringing the board to 15 directors after Dauman departs, according to the memo. Three of the existing directors are expected to step down after Viacom's annual meeting next year, a source familiar with the situation said on Friday.

Before the most recent legal fight, investors and analysts say they rarely met the heads of the businesses at the company and very few met Dauman other than seeing him at industry events.   Continued...

Viacom CEO interim replacement Thomas Dooley.    REUTERS/Handout