Sumner M Redstone, the 82-year-old chairman/ceo of US media mammoth Viacom, announced he will relinquish the ceo's role when the company splits its two primary business units into separately listed companies early in 2006.

The move, first mooted earlier this year [WAMN: 18-Mar-05], will create two discrete companies.

One will continue to trade as Viacom, comprising the group's cable networks such as MTV and Nickelodeon together with Paramount Pictures and publisher Simon & Schuster. It will be led by current Viacom co-president Thomas Freston (59).

The other company will be known as CBS and headed by second co-president Leslie Moonves (55). It will be built around national TV network CBS, plus the group's outdoor advertising and radio units. It will pay dividends and buy back shares.

However, Redstone, Viacom's controlling shareholder, is certainly not about to relinquish his iron grip on the two companies. He will retain his controlling stakes in the new entities and remain as chairman of both.

The 'retirement' decision comes just weeks after Redstone anointed daughter Shari as Viacom's vice chairman - a position she is likely to retain in the split companies. Redstone has said she will likely succeed him as chairman and controlling shareholder after his death.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff