Seeking to “get away from some of the hyperventaliation from the last week or so,” Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman told an investor conference today that Executive Chairman Sumner Redstone “is fully in charge of his health care decisions today” with a clear plan to ensure continuity at his company and CBS.
“I talk to Sumner frequently, several times a week,” Dauman told the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York. “I would ask those who speak or write about him to look at themselves in the mirror and [ask themselves] whether they’re speaking or acting or writing with a sense of decency. … He has an incredible will to live and enjoyment of life with some physical disabilities which some of us have. We should maintain a sense of decency.”
Redstone’s health is a big concern on Wall Street since he owns 80% of the voting shares of Viacom and CBS. His condition fell under a spotlight when a former companion and self-described caregiver Manuela Herzer sued saying that Redstone’s a “living ghost” and alleged that he lacked the mental capacity to remove her as caregiver.
Dauman said he wouldn’t comment on the suit.
But he told the group that a seven-member trust — which includes Daumon and Redstone’s daughter, Shari — will be in charge of Redstone’s National Amusements holdings when he leaves the stage. “No individual will control the trust. It’s a majority vote.”
Dauman is in charge of carrying out Redstone’s health care directive if the elderly exec becomes incapacitated. “It is not a big secret that he’s 92 years old and his physical ailments require him to be under medical supervision. … No one other than Sumner Redstone is making health care decisions as it relates to his physical condition.” But for now, “nothing has changed.”
In other comments, Dauman shrugged off Wall Street’s big concern that Dish Network might drop Viacom’s channels — or insist on an extremely low price for them — in their carriage-renewal negotiations.
Some small cable companies including Suddenlink have dropped Viacom and said that it helped their bottom line. It would be a serious blow if the owner of Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central lost Dish’s 13.9 million subscribers.
“I never like to comment on specific negotiations,” Dauman says. But “we have a very long partnership going back to the beginning of Dish. We’ve been good partners … in all the young demos driving the future.”
He reiterated his view that Paramount will “get back to where it should be” as it increases its production slate, including animated films, and builds its young television production operation.