Viacom’s latest fall show: Les and Tom hit the road

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Viacom co-presidents and co-chief operating officers, Tom Freston and Les Moonves have been locked at the hip since March when Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone confirmed the company would move towards splitting in two to unlock value. His rationale? "We anticipate that this company's stock will attract a higher trading multiple that can in turn be used for targeted acquisitions in promising areas. With the increased importance of wireless, online and video gaming businesses, the ability of the new Viacom to be opportunistic will be a distinct and powerful advantage."

Analysts, for the most part, have agreed with him. Said Merrill Lynch's Media Research Analyst Jessica Reif Cohen, "The sum-of-the-parts model suggests significant upside potential. We believe that breaking up the company would unlock hidden value with little strategic downside for the company."

Since the official announcement that Viacom's board was considering the split on March 16, the stock hasn't seen much of a bump.

On March 15, the stock traded at $34.29, but as of Sept. 22, it was trading at $33.19. The stock's 52 week high was $39.26 and its low was $32.11. In fact it's down 3% over the period, though peers have done worse; News Corp's stock is down 8%, and Disney is down 18% though Time Warner is up 1%.

Viacom Plus

As the weeks to the eventual uncoupling tick down-its due to happen some time in early 2006-the "twins," as they've been dubbed, have been hard at it on the investor road show circuit. One person so far unaccounted for in the breakup is Viacom Plus Exec VP Lisa McCarthy and her company-wide platform sales operation. For now, it's slated to become one of a small number of joint venture companies. Advertising Age takes a look at their presentations and how the executives' new teams are shaping up.

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