Looks like fall has come early for Philippe Dauman.
The French-born executive has essentially given up on Viacom weeks before he was scheduled to officially step down from the media giant.
Instead of going to the Viacom Board of Directors to personally present Dalian Wanda offer for a 49 percent stake in Paramount Pictures — a proposal that Dauman had backed despite vocal opposition from Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone — the outgoing chairman now plans to recommend the deal via a memo. A source close to Viacom confirmed the change-of-heart to TheWrap.
In June, parent company National Amusements, Inc. changed Viacom’s by-laws to block a Paramount sale.
“The principal amendment requires that any sale or financial transaction affecting all or a portion of Paramount Pictures must be unanimously approved by the Viacom Board of Directors,” NAI wrote at the time.
In the last three weeks, Dauman has unloaded tens of millions of dollars in Viacom stock.
Before (and during) that share dump, he’d been battling with Sumner and Shari Redstone to keep his job atop the National Amusements, Inc.-owned corporation, but ultimately agreed to a settlement package worth roughly $72 million. The terms of that deal have him walking away in mid-September.
The Redstones, who oversee the privately held National Amusements that controls an 80 percent stake in both Viacom and CBS, have publicly stated no interest in selling a piece of Paramount. But Dauman and the board had intended to pull the trigger this summer.
Perhaps Sumner’s ex-protege doesn’t feel like wasting his time (and laser-pointer skills) on a live Wanda pitch since the terms of his settlement made any major sale of assets pretty much impossible given the new makeup of the board.
Beyond the Dauman ouster, Viacom’s addition of five new bodies to its board — all hand-picked by those Redstones — means that three others have to go as well. Those will probably be the other members who think Paramount could do better with a partner.