Failed Viacom Boss Walks Away With $85 Million

20 October 2006

NEW YORK: 'There's no success like failure,' sang Bob Dylan. 'Tell me about it,' harmonizes former Viacom chief executive Tom Freston who, according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday, walked the platinum plank with a compensatory package of $84.8 million (€67.75m; £45.41m).

Following his much criticized inability to meet the stock price target set him by octogenarian autocrat Sumner B Redstone, chairman and controlling shareholder both of Viacom and CBS, Freston (60) was ousted in September after less than a year in the job.

He will get $58.9m in severance, the company said yesterday in a regulatory filing. Plus $7.4m in deferred compensation, $5.7m in a retirement fund payout and $9.8m in stock. Plus a $1m annual consultancy fee until 2009.

Such largesse in return for failure is not unprecedented in the media business, as former Disney executives Michael S Ovitz and Jeffrey Katzenberg will attest.

But some observers believe the payout more likely reflects a debt of gratitude lurking deep within Redstone's psyche for Freston's key role in building Viacom's MTV Networks into the monumental dollar machine it is today.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff