Redstone Said to Be Considering Changes to Viacom's Leadership

Possibility Media Mogul Will Replace Company's Board and CEO Dauman

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Sumner Redstone, controlling shareholder of Viacom, may be laying the groundwork to replace the company's board and Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman.

Responding to questions Friday on whether he planned to do so, the billionaire didn't rule out such moves.

"Sumner Redstone will make every decision with the same deliberation and consideration with which he removed Philippe Dauman and George Abrams as trustees, based on the best interests of shareholders," a Redstone spokesman said in an emailed statement. He wasn't more specific.

The 93-year-old media mogul has been taking steps to reassert his control over Viacom, the owner of MTV and Paramount Pictures, triggering a legal battle with former allies at the company. Last week, he removed Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams, a Viacom director, from their roles overseeing a Redstone trust that will eventually control his empire.

Viacom directors met Thursday night in anticipation that Redstone would act to remove them, according to two people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing the private deliberations.

Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams sued May 23 over their ouster, claiming Mr. Redstone is mentally impaired and being controlled by his daughter Shari. In their request filed Wednesday in probate court in Canton, Massachusetts, Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams said a rapid trial schedule is needed to resolve the dispute because the trust's assets are being threatened by Shari Redstone's "invalid attempt" to take control of its majority stakes in Viacom and CBS.

A hearing is set for June 7 in that case.

"While it remains unclear how the selection of individuals who are under Ms. Redstone's influence and control are in the best interests of Viacom, it is clear that the governance of Viacom and CBS, both substantial publicly-traded companies, hangs in the balance, as do the interests of those companies' shareholders and employees," Mr. Dauman and Mr. Abrams said.

A simmering dispute between Mr. Dauman and Mr. Redstone, who has so far successfully fought off legal claims about his competency, broke into public view last week when he sacked his longtime proteges from the trust and told Viacom executives he opposed the company's plan to sell a stake in the Paramount Pictures division.

-- Bloomberg News

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