Philippe Dauman Will Skip Sun Valley Meet As Moguls Question Viacom’s Fate

Associated Press

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman won’t have an embarrassing encounter with Vice Chair Shari Redstone this week at investment banker Herb Allen’s annual Sun Valley mogul gathering.

Redstone’s already there, and the Viacom chief was invited. But he now plans to skip the gathering.

“Mr. Dauman had planned to join the Allen & Co. conference but is attending to pressing business matters,” the company says.

The decision is sure to disappoint those who looked forward to seeing a Dauman-Redstone face off. He has accused the daughter of Sumner Redstone, 93,  of serving as his “puppet master” — a charge that the family rejects.

The fight between Dauman and Redstone is very much on the minds of the moguls at Sun Valley. Viacom, or at least some of its assets, could be in play as Dauman’s position there looks increasingly precarious.

Today Liberty Media Chairman John Malone told reporters there that “there’s always M&A opportunities” — adding that Viacom has “some great assets and, right at the moment because of the turmoil, they’re substantially undervalued.”

Shari Redstone has been seen talking in Sun Valley to CBS chief Les Moonves. Some analysts believe Redstone might merge Viacom with CBS and put the combined company under Moonves.

He “would do a terrific job if they wanted to go that way, but I have no idea what Shari has in mind,” Malone says.

Viacom’s shares have lost 32.4% of their value over the last 12 months, but are up about 3% today after Malone’s comments. He helped to engineer Lionsgate’s agreement to buy Starz, which he controls, and Charter Communications’ acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

At Viacom, Dauman says Shari Redstone is manipulating Sumner’s efforts to oust him and Viacom director George Abrams from key positions in the family power structure. On May 20, Redstone’s lawyers told Dauman and Abrams that they were off the seven-member family trust as well as the board of his theater chain, National Amusements.

The trust will control Redstone’s 80% interest in National Amusements when he’s unable to do so. The exhibition chain owns 80% of the voting shares in Viacom and CBS.

Dauman and Abrams have asked a Massachusetts court to overturn the decisions, saying that Sumner is incompetent and being used by a power-hungry daughter.

The Redstone team says that Sumner is still calling the shots, and that they are fed up with Dauman’s mismanagement. In a separate, but related, case, Viacom and National Amusements have asked a Delaware court to rule on whether the theater company has the right to oust five Viacom directors including Dauman.

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