Media mogul Sumner Redstone said Sunday that he acted independently in removing Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and another director from his trust on Friday, and said he opposed Dauman’s plan to sell a portion of Paramount Pictures.
In a stunning statement issued via spokesman Mike Lawrence, the mogul issued the following words:
“Mr. Redstone removed Mr. Dauman and George Abrams as trustees of the Sumner M. Redstone National Amusements Trust and as directors of National Amusements, Inc. based on what Mr. Redstone believes are the best interests of beneficiaries and shareholders.”
The statement amounts to a public rupture with Philippe Dauman, who has been involved with the mogul since Dauman worked as his lawyer in the 1980s.
Update: Viacom volleyed back at Redstone, insisting that the company was “troubled and saddened” by the state of things and that the 92-year-old was being “shamefully manipulated.”
The statement said: “The facts are clear. Viacom’s 12-hour strategy meetings on May 17 and 18, that Sumner attended by phone, addressed all issues, including Paramount, to the satisfaction of all the independent directors. Despite numerous requests, Lead Independent Director Fred Salerno and a fellow board member, who represent all shareholders, have still been unable to meet with Mr. Redstone. The Sumner Redstone we knew would never refuse a meeting about his businesses and he certainly would not want advisors to stand in for him. Mr. Salerno and his fellow Directors remain willing and eager to meet with Sumner at any time.”
The tit for tat statements did not change the basic facts. Dauman chose to lock horns with Redstone’s daughter Shari, accusing her of instigating his removal from the Redstone famly trust on Friday, and it appears the mogul has sided wholly with his daughter.
Redstone’s statement continued:
“Viacom’s claim that members of the board have been ‘denied access’ to Sumner Redstone is untrue. In a letter sent on May 16 by his counsel to Viacom’s CEO Phillippe Dauman and board members George Abrams and Frederic Salerno, Mr. Redstone asked to be briefed concerning management’s plans for improving Viacom’s business outlook and share price. This was an opportunity for direct engagement, but the board leadership did not respond. Instead, Viacom criticized Mr. Redstone for not speaking while participating by phone in a board meeting that followed. As Viacom knows well, Mr. Redstone has significant speech impairment and, for much of the past two years, has not relied on verbal statements at board meeting to make his opinion known.”
Redstone said his daughter Shari Redstone had not acted in his stead in removing Dauman and George Abrams, as Dauman immediately accused her of doing. He also denied that she chose a lawyer for him, saying he had done so himself.
The mogul further said that Viacom’s statement claiming that Shari Redstone has “isolated” him and put his residence on lockdown “are false as well.” Redstone’s spokesman said the aging executive had hosted friends at his home in the past several days and had met with several attorneys and an executive from National Amusements.
“He also visited his grandson’s home to watch a baseball game and is looking forward to celebrating his birthday with family later this week,” the statement read. Redstone turns 93 on May 27.
The statement also said that Redstone, whose National Amusements controls 80 percent of Viacom as well as CBS, opposes Dauman’s plan to sell a stake in Paramount Pictures to outside investors.
“Mr. Redstone continues to believe that it is in the best interest of Viacom that Paramount Pictures should remain wholly owned by the parent company.
Mr. Redstone regrets that Mr. Dauman has diverted resources to these baseless attacks and misrepresentations, rather than focusing on the continuing challenges that are faced by Viacom. Mr. Redstone will continue to act in what he believes are the best interest of Viacom’s shareholders.
Dauman had previously said he’d been blocked from multiple requests to see Redstone. But Redstone said that the refusal was his own choice. In addition, the statement noted that Dauman’s accusations that Redstone is incapacitated “now make it problematic to move forward with any direct meeting and briefing as Mr. Redstone had previously requested.”