MEL KARMAZIN RESIGNS FROM VIACOM

Tom Freston and Leslie Moonves Named Co-COOs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Mel Karmazin, the chief operating officer and No. 2 executive at Viacom, has resigned, according to a statement issued this morning by the media giant.
Photo: AP
Mel Karmazin has resigned as COO of Viacom; his future plans are unknown.

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Mr. Karmazin will remain with the company for the next two months as a consultant, though it remains unclear whether he already has a new position outside the company in place.

Co-COOs
The statement also announced that Tom Freston, currently CEO of Viacom's MTV Networks, and Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS, had been named co-presidents and co-chief operating officers of Viacom. As part of the statement, the company's board of directors said Sumner Redstone, Viacom's longtime chairman-CEO, has committed to stepping down from the company within the next three years after his successor has been identified.

The ultimate transfer of power between Mr. Redstone and Mr. Karmazin has long been a thorny issue. The two publicly patched things up in March 2003 when Mr. Karmazin signed a three-year contract renewal.

At that time, Mr. Redstone said in a statement: "Mel has done a masterful job of integrating [Viacom] businesses and operating them at peak performance. I look forward to continuing our successful partnership and taking Viacom to new heights in the years to come."

'Great visionary'
Mr. Karmazin, in turn, called Mr. Redstone "one of the great visionaries and executives in the entertainment industry." He went on to say that he was "very excited about the future and working with Sumner to keep Viacom at the forefront of the media industry while building value for our shareholders."

But detente was short-lived. Mr. Redstone, who turned 81 last week, refused to anoint Mr. Karmazin as his successor. At Viacom's annual meeting last month, Mr. Redstone would only say that Viacom's board would address succession "in the near future." Mr. Redstone's lack of public support for his No. 2 had raised speculation recently that Mr. Karmazin would bolt.

Mr. Karmazin joined Viacom in May 2000, following the merger of Viacom and CBS Corp., where he was president and CEO.

'Pursue other challenges'
In the statement, Mr. Karmazin said: "After more than 20 years with the company, for personal and professional reasons, I have decided to leave Viacom and pursue other challenges."

As for Mr. Karmazin's replacements, who will jointly run the company under Mr. Redstone, Mr. Freston will have specific responsibilities for Showtime, BET, Paramount Parks, Simon & Schuster and Paramount Pictures, in addition to his role heading MTV Networks. Mr. Moonves will add responsibility for Paramount TV, Infinity Broadcasting and Viacom Outdoor while still heading Viacom's broadcast business.

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