The drama surrounding Viacom chairman emeritus Sumner Redstone continued on Tuesday, with Viacom lead independent director Fred Salerno penning a lengthy, impassioned letter to Redstone that declared, “We want to understand what is happening to you.”
In the letter, dated Tuesday, Salerno expresses concern over the claims made by “a host of new advisors and spokespeople” who “say they work for you.”
“They claim that strongly-held views you have expressed for decades have, in the past few months, completely reversed,” the letter states. “They say you no longer trust your friends, your advisors or your board.”
Salerno goes on to lament the fact that these new advisors have apparently prevented the board from communicating with the 93-year-old.
“It is alarming that your representatives refuse us the opportunity to talk with you, express our perspectives, share our friendship, or understand directly from you what your wishes might be and why,” the letter reads. “And we are quite alarmed that your voice — and views — are not being heard.”
The letter goes on to dismiss reports that the board intends “to sell Paramount lock, stock and barrel, or that we would do it in the middle of the night and hide it from you,” adding, “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Salerno went on to assure Sumner that, if a transaction can be reached with a new strategic investor that makes sense for Viacom shareholders, it will be presented to the entire board, including Redstone and his daughter Shari. In the meantime, Salerno wrote, “it is important for all shareholders that we are able to pursue this investigation without any new obstacles that may cause potential investors to shy away from the process.”
The letter also cautioned, “putting up a wall around you ensures more litigation — and that is not what we want.”
Salerno has spent a lot of time at the keyboard pounding out letters recently. Two weeks ago, he vowed to fight a reported attempt to oust the board in a letter to shareholders:
A day later, Shari Redstone told him and the board to “spend less time focusing on 1) Shari and 2) how to maintain their own directorships, and more time on a long term strategy to increase the value for shareholders and to develop a specific long-term plan to turn around the current state of Viacom.”
Recently, Redstone’s competency has been at the center of a heated legal showdown, with nearly two dozen lawyers descending on a suburban Boston courtroom last week to argue over whether Redstone was in his right mind when he removed two of the trustees who will control the mogul’s media empire if he becomes incapacitated or dies.
Lawyers for the removed trustees, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and director George Abrams, say Redstone is mentally incompetent and barely clinging to life — and that it was Redstone’s daughter, Shari, who pulled the strings to have their clients removed.