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As Shakeup Looms, Investor Campaigns Planned by Incoming Viacom CEO

As Shakeup Looms, Investor Campaigns Planned by Incoming Viacom CEO
A new tone for a company that has kept communications minimal is being set by Thomas Dooley who is planning to reach out to investors as Viacom Inc’s incumbent CEO as the company prepares for the impending departure of CEO Philippe Dauman.
If media reports on he issue are to be believed, meetings between shareholders and heads of Viacom networks is being planned to be set up by Dooley. Such network heads would include heads from Comedy Central, MTV and Nickelodeon.

Investors and analysts say that the move to engage shareholders and investors marks a stark about-face from the closed, secretive culture that has surrounded Dauman and the $17 billion media company but is not unusual for a new CEO.
Control over Redstone's $40 billion media empire, which includes Viacom and CBS Corp have seen Viacom getting embroiled in a legal battle between Dauman and some members of its board on one side and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone, on the other. 80 percent of the voting shares of both Viacom and CBS is owned by Redstone's privately held movie theater company, National Amusements Inc.
An agreement between the two sides under which Dooly will replace Dauman, 62, who will stay on as executive chair until Sept. 13 was announced on Friday by Dooley to the employees. The sources said that a plan to sell a minority stake in Paramount Pictures to the Viacom board would be allowed to be presented by Dauman. The sources also said that under the agreement, about $72 million would be given to Dauman.
For a long time, Dooley, 59, has been Dauman's right-hand man. He will stay on as interim CEO until Sept. 30, he said in the memo, following which a decision on succession plans would be made by the board.
According to the memo, the board will have 15 directors after Dauman departs as it would add five directors that National Amusements put forward in June, according to the agreement. A source familiar with the situation said that after Viacom's annual meeting next year, three of the existing directors is expected to step down.
Investors and analysts say that very few met Dauman other than seeing him at industry events and before the most recent legal fight they rarely met the heads of the businesses at the company.
"You read about the people who run the networks in the trades but I have never met them or Dauman. I can't remember the last time they had an analyst day," said Salvatore Muoio, whose firm New York-based S. Muoio & Co has owned voting shares of Viacom for six years. In fact, the last analyst day was in 2006.

Dooley’s outreach campaign is important for himself as well as for the company as he is hardly guaranteed to get the top job. An outsider with a more creative background who could attract new talent and improve programming across Viacom would be a better choice for the role of CEO, some investors believe. Viacom has been struggling with lagging ratings. A merger between Viacom and CBS, also controlled by the Redstone family, is desired by others.
For more than 30 years, Dooley and Dauman have worked together. In 2006 after Viacom was spun off from CBS, Dauman became CEO and Dooley was chief administrative officer and this was the second time that the two were working together at Viacom.
Ben Strubel, a principal with Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based wealth manager Strubel Investment Management, which owns non-voting shares of Viacom said: "I would prefer somebody with a fresh perspective who has a stronger background in entertainment and media."

Christopher J. Mitchell

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