Viacom’s lead independent director Frederick Salerno wrote an open letter to controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone in which he airs many of the issues now being fought out in court.
Redstone and some of Viacom’s directors, including CEO Philippe Dauman are at war over control of the company, part of a $40 billion media empire. Lately Redstone has been siding with his daughter, Shari Redstone, and the director have charged in court that she is executing undue influence over her ailing father, who has removed Dauman as a director of his family holding company and is opposing the sale of a 49% stake in Paramount Pictures.
Salerno called himself the 93-year-old mogul’s long-time friend and says he is making the letter public “in the hope that those around you will read it to you and that you can see the complexity of the issues confronting us.”
Salerno calls it strange that Redstone n the last few months has new advisors and spokespeople who say they work for him, and that they say Redstone no long trust his friends, advisors and board.
“They tell us to believe that you have put your daughter Shari in charge of your trust and your board at National Amusements despite your clearly stated wishes and planning over many years that are to the contrary. A new law firm never before associated with you recently delivered a notice claiming you amended Viacom’s bylaws, taking away significant responsibilities from your board,” Salerno says in the letter. “They tell us that you are well and getting better every day. Last week they staged a drive for you, with Shari, to the Paramount studio for a brief visit in which you didn’t get out of your car.”
Salerno says that it is alarming that Redstone’s new reps won’t like the directors or Dauman talk to him.
“We are quite concerned that your voice – and views – are not being heard,” Salerno says, particularly about Paramount.
According to Salerno, Redstone’s new advisers say a meeting with Viacom directors could become the source for more litigation.
“In reality, putting up a wall around you ensures more litigation – and that is not what we want. We want to understand what is happening with you,” Salerno said. “And I can assure you that you can count on us to stick up for you and for the many other Viacom shareholders you have served so well for so many years.”