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Instant Analysis: Viacom CEO Resigns

By Eric Volkman - Aug 22, 2016 at 8:13PM

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Philippe Dauman steps down as chief executive, but will remain chairman until mid-September.

What happened?

A big Hollywood player has brought in new leadership. Following an increasingly bitter dispute over its future direction, Viacom (NASDAQ: VIA) (VIAB) announced Philippe Dauman has stepped down from the CEO position. He has been replaced on an interim basis by former COO Thomas Dooley.

Dauman will remain in his post as chairman through Sept. 13.

Image source: TahoeMike10 via Pixabay. 

His resignation is part of a broader settlement between dissident company officials and the team around chairman emeritus Sumner Redstone, whose family controls Viacom via majority shareholder National Amusements. The two sides fell out over Dauman's plans to sell off Viacom's Paramount film and TV studio.

In addition to Dauman's departure, the settlement stipulates that the warring parties will retire all lawsuits among themselves, and Viacom will expand its board of directors by five seats.

Does it matter?

At a stroke, the settlement puts to rest a conflict that threatened to derail the company. Dauman's aim to sell Paramount was at odds with the Redstone camp's apparent goal of re-merging the entirety of Viacom with CBS (PARA 1.30%), from which it was spun off at the end of 2005.

Dauman certainly has a case for jettisoning Paramount. The unit has underperformed at the box office for quite some time; so far in 2016, it has only one film (Star Trek Beyond) in the list of top 10 grossing movies of the year. Although Viacom likely wouldn't be able to command a premium price for the division, it has apparently attracted interest from a number of suitors in the media industry.

As chairman, Dauman will be allowed to present a formal proposal for selling a minority stake in Paramount to the board. Whether it accepts or rejects the proposal, at least it won't endure the stress of having to deal with a corporate civil war or a raft of lawsuits. So this peace deal and changing of the guard at the top should come as a relief to shareholders.

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