Viacom May Adopt Split Personality

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In a drastic move to boost the value of his shares, Viacom Inc. CEO Sumner Redstone is planning to divide the company into two separately traded companies.

Under the plan, co-president Tom Freston would run one company, composed of Viacom’s cable and movie studio operations, while co-president Les Moonves would run CBS, Infinity Radio and billboard units.

It’s not clear whether Paramount’s television production operation would stay with CBS or move back with the movie studio.

One of Viacom’s problems is that investors’ excitement over its high-growth MTV Networks’ operation is offset by the sluggish broadcast operations, including not just the troubled Infinity unit but the CBS stations business, which did well in 2004 but is expected to grow slowly over the next few years.

Viacom’s board has authorized company executives to explore a plan, which they expect to finalize during the second quarter.

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