Billionaire media magnate Sumner Redstone axed CEO Philippe Dauman from the board of Viacom, where he oversees the likes of MTV, Nickelodeon, movie studio Paramount Pictures and a number of other valuable properties.
If the demand holds up in court, Dauman will exit along with four other directors on the Viacom board amid an increasingly bitter boardroom battle that has pitted the 93-year-old Redstone and his family against the media combine’s management.
A statement from Viacom said the fired board members would fight the order in court. Dauman remains as CEO for now. But the new board, if it survives a court challenge, would “evaluate the current management team and take whatever steps it deems appropriate to ensure that Viacom has in place strong, independent and effective leadership”, Redstone’s team said in a statement.
National Amusements, Redstone’s holding company, through which he maintains majority control of voting shares in Viacom, said in a statement that it was explicitly allowed by Viacom’s bylaws to abruptly terminate everyone involved “without a meeting, without prior notice and without a vote”. In the same statement, the company said it had removed George S Abrams, Philippe P Dauman, Blythe J McGarvie, Frederic V Salerno and William Schwartz.
Newly installed are Kenneth Lerer, chairman of Buzzfeed, Thomas May, Judith McHale, Ronald Nelson of rental car company Avis Budget, and former Sony America president Nicole Seligman.
Salerno blamed Redstone’s daughter, Shari, for the coup. In a statement provided by Viacom he said the senior Redstone is being manipulated. “With the support of the independent directors of the board, I am filing today a lawsuit in Delaware Chancery Court seeking an expedited determination that Ms Redstone’s attempted removal and replacement of Viacom directors is invalid and that the directors elected at the 2016 Annual Meeting continue to serve. I am also seeking an expedited hearing, expedited discovery and an order of the court to maintain the status quo pending resolution of the litigation.”