'No My Darling Daughter,' Says Media Mogul Redstone

11 July 2008

SUN VALLEY, Idaho: Some might think investment bank Allen & Company's annual conference to be an overly public platform for a family feud. But Sumner M Redstone (pictured), the octogenarian chairman and controlling shareholder of Viacom and CBS is definitely not your average Poppa.

In a CNBC television interview shown yesterday (Thursday), the aging autocrat appeared to resurrect a long-running dispute with his daughter, Shari, over future control of the family media empire.

Back in 2005 Redstone senior dropped hints galore that Shari would succeed him at the helm of the family business "when I'm gone". And she frequently appeared alongside him at business events. 

But asked by yesterday by CNBC correspondent David Faber "Will she succeed you?", Pops gave a
monosyllablic answer. "No".

He continued: "The reason she won't succeed me is not … that she isn't qualified. But I have made it clear that good governance requires that the two companies' [Viacom and CBS] boards should decide who succeeds me. I'm not worried about it 'cause it's going to be another twenty, thirty years."

Ms Redstone was not ecstatic over her paterfamila's remarks, or so her spokeswoman implied.

Sumner's comments were "absolutely inaccurate", said the mouthpiece. "There is no final agreement [and accordingly] this calls into question the veracity of anything else he might say." 

Father and daughter, the spokesperson acceded, were in negotiations and [theoretically] subject to a confidentiality agreement. Shari, it seems, was "only speaking because he broke it first".

Redstone – who sometimes finds it difficult to suppress his autocratic instincts – is especially cherished for his performance in 1999 at a news conference announcing Viacom's acquisition of CBS.

On that occasion he interrupted the latter's chief executive Mel Karmazin by yelling into a nearby mike: "I'm in control! Remember – I'm in control!"

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