CEO caught in middle as Viacom, CBS merger talks get ugly

Merger negotiations between two corporate cousins, CBS and Viacom, have taken an ugly turn. Now there's some serious ...

Posted: Apr 11, 2018 7:58 PM
Updated: Apr 11, 2018 7:58 PM

Merger negotiations between two corporate cousins, CBS and Viacom, have taken an ugly turn. Now there's some serious gamesmanship going on, with Chief Executive Leslie Moonves on one side and the vice chairwoman of CBS and Viacom, Shari Redstone, on the other.

The Redstone family ultimately controls both companies because they own 80 percent of the voting shares.

But Moonves also has significant power as one of the country's most successful and widely respected CEOs.

On Wednesday, the battle became even more dramatic.

CNBC's David Faber reported that Shari Redstone "is likely to replace CBS CEO Les Moonves if a deal isn't reached between the two companies."

"The main obstacle" is the "personnel fight between Redstone and Moonves," Faber said.

Suddenly the prospect of Redstone firing Moonves -- previously unthinkable -- was the talk of the media business, even if it was just a trial balloon.

So CBS took the unusual step of issuing a statement defending its CEO.

"The industry and the marketplace know Leslie Moonves' record and we think it speaks for itself," the company said Wednesday morning.

At midday Wednesday, Redstone's camp tried to take the temperature down a notch.

In a statement, the family's holding company National Amusements said it "has tremendous respect for Les Moonves and it has always been our intention that he run a combined company."

Negotiations are ongoing.

Here's how this became so heated. Redstone has decided to bring CBS and Viacom back together, twelve years after the two companies broke up.

The boards of both companies are now working on a merger plan. But there are disputes over the value of Viacom, which is widely seen as the weaker of the two companies. And there's a big disagreement over who should be in charge.

Moonves and his allies reportedly want him to run the combined company, with CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello by his side. He views Ianniello as a potential successor.

But Redstone sees it differently. She wants Moonves to run the combined company with Viacom CEO Bob Bakish as his No. 2, putting Bakish in line to succeed him.

"Certainly the conflict has become poisonous," Kim Masters of The Hollywood Reporter wrote Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some on Wall Street are skeptical of the merger altogether. With CBS in a much stronger position than Viacom, Bernstein analyst Todd Juenger wrote Tuesday that CBS would "absolutely not" be trying to buy Viacom were it not for the Redstone family.

"The pre-deal posturing has begun in earnest," he pointed out.

Stock in both CBS and Viacom is trading down about 2%.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844951

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1161002006
Mobile741871379
Madison53279732
Shelby38325368
Baldwin38068589
Tuscaloosa36009641
Montgomery34482781
Lee25550263
Calhoun22585518
Morgan22451406
Etowah20013517
Marshall18777316
Houston17727425
St. Clair16875358
Limestone16135218
Cullman16044303
Elmore15904294
Lauderdale14968306
Talladega14189299
DeKalb12967269
Walker12020380
Blount10714192
Autauga10517157
Jackson10157194
Coffee9414192
Colbert9334208
Dale9018191
Tallapoosa7254201
Russell707765
Chilton7018170
Escambia6955143
Covington6932195
Franklin6340108
Chambers5783142
Marion5401130
Dallas5285209
Pike5118109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4780110
Geneva4642136
Bibb434094
Barbour369480
Butler3434100
Marengo342393
Monroe337066
Randolph334367
Pickens333188
Fayette330085
Henry320666
Hale318189
Cherokee317563
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254460
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184947
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152645
Perry141840
Sumter139241
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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