New Viacom chairman Philippe Dauman did not mince his words Tuesday morning during an investor event, addressing what he called “the naysayers, self-interested critics and publicity seekers” directly.
“Our outlook and the facts have been distorted and obscured by the naysayers, self-interested critics and publicity seekers,” Dauman said. “We will not be distracted or deterred as we build for the bright future ahead of us. As executive chairman and CEO, I will continue to work tirelessly to secure that future and will leave no stone unturned either tactically or strategically.”
The tough talk left its targets purposefully vague, but anyone paying attention to press coverage of the company can connect the dots, as we’ve done below.
But first, the rest of Dauman’s prepared phone rant:
“Sumner and I have a more than 30-year history side-by-side building his media empire. He and the board of Viacom, believing in my abilities and my character, have entrusted me with weighty responsibilities — none of which are inconsistent or incompatible,” he continued. “My singular objective is to protect and build value for all of Viacom shareholders, and in doing so, for all of the beneficiaries of Sumner’s trust, who not only include the descendants of his daughter, but also her brother.
“Finally, let me be absolutely clear: I could not be more focused on getting Viacom stock price back to the much-higher level enjoyed under my leadership just a short time ago,” Dauman concluded. “No one should doubt my resolve, or the resolve of our entire management team in making that happen.”
Dauman was directly lecturing a few people, including New York activist investor SpringOwl Asset Management, which has publicly spoken out against the longterm executive replacing Redstone atop the company’s board.
Eric Jackson of the hedge fund actually wanted both men to retire. He had called the ailing Redstone’s chair “absent … for too long.”
Jackson is actually just a small shareholder whose stake is far below the 5 percent level that requires regulatory disclosure. But he has a point in his disappointment. Since July 2014, Viacom stock (VIAB) has been struggling, and now trades at less than half the price it did about 19 months ago.
Perhaps a bigger fish worth frying in Dauman’s mind was the 92-year-old Sumner Redstone’s own daughter, Shari Redstone. She and the new company chairman have been squabbling in the press — and probably much more so behind closed doors.
“It is my firm belief that whoever may succeed my father as chair at each company should be someone who is not a trustee of my father’s trust or otherwise intertwined in Redstone family matters, but rather a leader with an independent voice,” Shari had said in a statement last week.
That statement was in stark contrast to Shari’s glowing endorsement of Les Moonves top grab her dad’s chair at CBS, the other corporation owned by the Redstone family’s National Amusements.
“I have been fortunate to work with Les and he has clearly established himself as a creative and effective leader who understands both the challenges and the opportunities that are shaping today’s media landscape,” Shari stated. “I am sure he will make a great Chair and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.”
Still, it was Dauman who took the seat, and continues enduring the heat.
Read about Viacom’s first quarter 2016 earnings here, which disappointed at the top line. Company stock dropped 10 percent within the first five minutes of U.S. market trading on Tuesday.