Shari Redstone, chair of ViacomCBS, stepped out out in force Wednesday, announcing that the company about to be discussed for the next three hours “is not your father’s Viacom. And it’s not my fathers’ either.”
Redstone was kicking off a streaming event months in the making ahead of the launch of Paramount+ on March 4 that the company hopes will nudge it into the streaming big leagues in a very crowded field. She echoed her famous father that “content is king” and promised to meet consumers where and when they want to view it.
“Our company’s transformation is ahead of schedule,” she said. “We are optimizing the power of our combined assets and IP, driving growth in subscribers and rapidly realizing the cost saving promised when we announced the merger.”
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The event was virtual, of course, but she spoke from the Paramount Pictures lot. “My father loved this lot. He loved everything that was created here, and he believed its future could be even greater than its historic past,” Redstone said. The two had a notoriously complex and combative relationship. Sumner Redstone died in August.
It was one of Redstone’s first major appearances since Viacom and CBS merged in late 2019, for the second time. At the combined company’s first stockholders meeting back in May, she spoke briefly, calling the stock undervalued and ViacomCBS a “global, multi-platform content powerhouse.”
The shares were at $19 then and had dipped to a pandemic-low of $10 before a massive run-up as Wall Street sentiment slowly turned under CEO Bob Bakish and streaming plans came into focus. It’s doubled since last fall, trading today at around $65.
Redstone, who successfully ran the family’s National Amusements movie theater chain for years, has a lot riding on the ultimate success of the Viacom-CBS merger. She pushed aggressively for the combination as she assumed control of the companies through the family holding NAI following the illness of her father.
The merger has since been targeted by shareholders of both companies in two civil lawsuits currently underway in Delaware Chancery Court. Neither set of suing stockholders felt the merger process was fair, alleging that Shari Redstone installed allies on both boards and pressured them several times over several years into approving a deal that wasn’t necessarily in the best interests of either company.
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