As China’s Dalian Wanda Group mulls a minority stake acquisition in Paramount Pictures — to the tune of billions — a potential sale throws gasoline on an escalating power struggle between Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and majority shareholders Shari and Sumner Redstone.
Wanda, a conglomerate with designs on becoming a Hollywood force, is reported to be the stronger of two potential suitors for a 49-percent holding in the film studio, according to Reuters. Paramount’s valuation, which also figures in the real estate its iconic lot sits on, is reported as high as $10 billion.
Wanda could pay up to $5 billion for the stake, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Wall Street Journal pegged the studio’s total price between $8 billion and $10 billion, which would bring the minority position to a $4 billion price tag.
Representatives for the studio and parent company Viacom, as well as the Wanda Group, did not return TheWrap’s request for comment.
The sale has been a priority for the embattled Dauman, who is trying to boost the value of Viacom stock and flex the remaining muscle he has as CEO. An open letter released by Sumner’s attorney’s and signed by the 93-year-old said he no longer trusts Dauman and opposes a Paramount sale in any form. Sumner recently came under the care of his daughter Shari, from whom he was long estranged.
With 80 percent of the voting shares in Viacom, the Redstones could thwart any potential sale motion from Dauman.
“I am determined to act in the best interests of the company and all of its shareholders. I do not trust you or the current board to do the same,” Sumner wrote in the June 15 open letter.
In the same letter, the mogul underscored his mental competency amid two legal battles being fought over his true mental and physical capacity and the control Shari possesses over his affairs.
Redstone owns controlling interest in both Viacom and CBS Corp. through a trust established at his theatrical company National Amusements. The day before he blasted Dauman’s open courting of a minority shareholder in the studio, both Sumner and Shari visited the Hollywood lot and held a brief meeting with studio head Brad Grey.
Paramount has been operating with an incredibly lean slate, and bombed this summer with a sequel to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” It has hope for the July 22 release of Justin Lin‘s “Star Trek Beyond,” the third in a J.J. Abrams-led franchise reboot.