By a nearly unanimous vote, CBS shareholders re-elected 11 members of the board of directors during the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, continuing the company’s ongoing effort to stabilize itself after a turbulent 2018.
The board has been overhauled as a key part of the makeover that has followed the ouster last fall of former CEO Les Moonves. The only non-independent directors are Shari Redstone, who runs the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, National Amusements, and her attorney, Robert Klieger. Four of the remaining nine directors are women. Six of the 11 members joined the board in 2018.
After the meeting, the company also announced that the board approved a quarterly dividend of 18 cents per share, payable on July 1 to shareholders of record as of June 10.
Under a legal settlement between CBS and National Amusements, Redstone and her team may not instigate discussions of a reunion between CBS and Viacom until late 2020. The individual companies could initiate talks on their own, however, and most Wall Street bets are on a third round of formal talks beginning before the end of 2019.
The Q&A portion of the 20-minute meeting at New York’s Museum of Modern Art featured a couple of references by shareholders to the possible merger. Acting CEO Joe Ianniello, General Counsel Laura Franco and Interim Board Chairman Strauss Zelnick, who represented the company onstage at the meeting, surprised no one by not offering any fresh views on that familiar topic.
“CBS should remain separate from Viacom,” a shareholder who identified himself as Charles A. Fernandez Jr. said. “Viacom’s a good company and the chairman of the board there is running the company well. But I don’t think it would fit in with CBS.” Franco replied, “We appreciate your comments.”
Ianniello, whose acting CEO contract was recently extended through the end of December, appeared well at ease handling most of the questions from the several dozen shareholders in the theater. Topics ranged from the state of the DVD format to licensing of CBS series to sports betting. Ianniello showed a dry sense of humor when asked about whether the company was exploring crypro-currency. “We’re not doing any business with crypto-currency,” he said. “Our business is providing premium content to our audiences. We get paid in cash. We like cash. Preferably U.S. dollars.”
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