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Redstone successor ‘decided by trust’

CBS and Viacom owner Sumner Redstone has played down suggestions to will hand the keys to his empire to daughter Shari, and instead said a decision will be made by a seven-member trust.

The 92-year-old mogul has been wrestling with succession plans for some time, while several US media reports this week suggested his thinking had been accelerated due to worsening health.

However, Redstone released statement saying: “Decisions about who will succeed me as chairman of CBS and Viacom will be made by the boards of the respective companies, and not by any individual. Despite press reports to the contrary, such decisions have not yet been made.

He added he remained firmly in charge of US broadcaster CBS and global channels group Viacom. Both are owned by his National Amusements business and are publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

“After my death, my ownership interest in the companies will be overseen by a group of seven trustees who will make fiduciary decisions based solely on the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust,” the statement, which was sent to various New York media outlets, said. “Until that time, I will continue to make all such decisions.

“As I have always said, I believe strongly in professional management and appropriate corporate governance.”

The companies respective president and CEOs, Leslie Moonves at CBS and Philippe Dauman at Viacom, have been positioning to keep control of their firms after Redstone is no longer in control.

Earlier this year it appeared Redstone was eyeing Dauman to run both groups, paving the way for them to re-merge – having been tied together as CBS Paramount until 2006. Furthermore, Dauman will be on the seven-person board that decides the companies’ futures.

Moonves, meanwhile, has approached financiers about buying out CBS, which has been the stronger performing business out of the two in recent years.

His daughter, Shari Redstone, currently runs Advancit Capital and is vice chairman of both CBS and Viacom.

The news came as CBS posted first quarter 2015 revenues of US$3.5 billion, down from the US$3.57 billion this period last year. Operating income was US$702 million, compared with US$791 million in 2014.

Despite the falls, executive chairman Sumner Redstone said: “There are tremendous opportunities afforded to companies that create premium programming, and Les and his team are capitalising on all of them.

“I am confident they have the strategy to keep CBS at the top of its game for many years to come.”