Viacom Plan to Sell Paramount Stake Draws 3 Dozen Companies

CEO Philippe Dauman says company is turning away financial investors in favor of companies with tech or international know-how

Viacom’s Paramount Pictures is drawing a crowd to the negotiating table, even if it’s struggling to lure people into theaters.

The company’s plan to explore selling a minority stake in its studio has attracted more than three dozen interested companies, CEO Philippe Dauman said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, despite Paramount taking an approximate $100 million hit from flops “Zoolander 2” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” in the current quarter.

As Viacom wades through the prospects, international and digital businesses, Dauman said he’s turning away purely financial investors like private equity firms, aiming instead for a partner that has technology or international expertise.

The decision to seek out a minority stakeholder in Paramount, announced last month, was Dauman’s first major initiative in his newly elected position of chairman. He is also chief executive of the company, which is battling dwindling ratings, activist investor calls for a revamp and a struggling stock price.

Its shares have been among the most depressed for television companies as investors question how future audience migration to online video could hurt business that reap most of their revenue from traditional pay-TV subscriptions.

At the time it was announced, Dauman said that the company was in “substantive discussions with a select group” of potential investors in the studio. Its target for a decision is the end of June.

Viacom Class B shares were up 5 cents in premarket trading at $41.48.  They have slid about 40 percent in the last year.