Saturday, July 21, 2007

Viacom's Top Jews Sumner Redstone And His Daughter Shari Squabbling Over Control Of Jewish Media Empire

“I’m in control! Remember — I’m in control!”

A New York Times story posted July 20th, 2007 details a behind-the-scenes power struggle between the cadaverous Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (originally known as Murray Rothstein) and his semi-cadaverous daughter Shari (both pictured at left) for control of the sprawling Viacom Jewish media empire whose two publicly traded companies are valued at more than $53 billion.

While both parties publicly deny anything is amiss, people close to the family claim Sumner Redstone has grown estranged in recent months from Shari, who is the vice chairwoman of both the CBS Corporation and Viacom Inc., media giants whose interests include the TV and radio networks of CBS and cable channels like MTV, BET and Nickelodeon, Simon & Schuster and the Paramount movie studio. Sumner Redstone is the chairman and controlling shareholder of both.

Mr. Redstone played down the reports of the tensions with his daughter that sent ripples through the media world and Wall Street yesterday. “I have no intention of removing her from the board,” he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles. “I haven’t encouraged her to take a lesser role, and I consider her a credible candidate to succeed me, but I believe the board should pick my successor.” [Ed. Note: A "credible" candidate? To say that about one's own daughter? That's a watered-down endorsement if I ever heard one.]

Nancy Sterling, a spokeswoman for Ms. Redstone, also soft-pedaled the dispute, saying that no formal proposal had been made for such a deal or for her departure from the corporate boards, which was first reported on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site yesterday. “Shari has not been asked to step down and has no intention of stepping down,” said Sterling.

However, insiders say that the two have been in talks that could result in Ms. Redstone’s leaving the boards of both companies and her father buying out her roughly 16 percent interest in Viacom and CBS. The negotiations could also result in her acquiring the family’s privately held movie theater chain, National Amusements Inc., which she now runs. Mr. Redstone did not deny that such talks had taken place.

Mr. Redstone’s personal fortune is also an issue. Valued at some $8 billion, it is presided over by a board of trustees who include Ms. Redstone; Viacom’s chief executive, Phillipe Dauman; and two advisers, George Abrams and David F. Andelman, who are both lawyers. Last year, Mr. Redstone settled the lawsuit filed by his son Brent that sought to dissolve the family trusts, buying out his interests and leaving Ms. Redstone with a 20 percent stake that is valued at some $1.6 billion.

This is not the first time that Redstone family disagreements have spilled out into the public. Both father, who is 84, and daughter, 53, are not shy about speaking their minds. But Mr. Redstone also has a reputation for demonstrating who is boss, often impulsively and in ways that show up his presumed heirs.

In 1999, at a news conference for Viacom’s purchase of CBS, Mr. Redstone interrupted Mel Karmazin, CBS’s chief executive, by blurting “I’m in control! Remember — I’m in control!” into a microphone. Despite being widely considered Mr. Redstone’s successor, Mr. Karmazin left the company in 2004. Last year, Mr. Redstone fired another possible managerial successor, the MTV executive Tom Freston, from his position as head of Viacom, criticizing him for moving too slowly on Internet opportunities. This was sandwiched around other high-profile blow-ups with everyone from top executives who worked for him to the Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise and his only son, Brent.

Mr. Redstone has said in recent years that his daughter was the person most likely to succeed him as chairman of the companies. But he has lately appeared to be reconsidering that. In an interview earlier this year on a CNBC talk show with Michael D. Eisner (another top Jew) as host, Mr. Redstone referred to his second wife, Paula Fortunato, saying that “my wife is closer to me these days than my daughter.” Redstone dumped his previous wife of many years to marry a trophy wife 40 years his junior.

Analysis: While it may seem encouraging on the surface to see the Rothstein Family scrapping amongst themselves like junkyard dogs jockeying for territory, note that they are not fighting over whether or not Jews should control the media, but about which Jews should control the media. The content of Viacom media - which is anti-white, anti-Gentile, and increasingly pro-gay, is not up for question.

No comments: