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Sumner Redstone’s expected resignation from family empire could create leadership battle

Sumner Redstone, chairman of National Amusements, with his daughter, Shari Redstone
Credit: Press Association

Sumner Redstone’s expected resignation from family media empire Viacom today could unleash a succession battle between its non-family chief executive and his daughter, Shari, who has released a pointed statement about leadership at the company.

Nonagenarian Redstone, 92, announced his retirement as chairman of the family’s other media empire CBS yesterday, where he will be replaced by its existing CEO and president Leslie Moonves.

Redstone’s father founded theatre company National Amusements, which controls CBS and Viacom, in 1936. Today it operates more than 1,500 movie screens across the globe.

His daughter, Shari, is president of National Amusements, and also runs Advancit Capital, which invests in new media.

He is expected to announce his retirement at a Viacom board meeting later today; however, Shari has made it clear she would not like its existing CEO, Philippe Dauman, to succeed her father.

"It is my firm belief that whoever may succeed my father as chair at each company should be someone who is not a trustee of my father’s trust or otherwise intertwined in Redstone family matters, but rather a leader with an independent voice," Shari said in a statement. "I was honored to nominate Les as the CBS chair and am delighted to congratulate him on his new position." Dauman is a trustee of her father’s trust.

Over the last year, Redstone has been forced to defend his role at the helm of both family empires, with investors and media speculating about his ailing health.

In a statement released in May, Redstone said that any decision on succession would be made by the boards of CBS and Viacom, rather than an individual, adding that he cared strongly about professional management and good corporate governance.

"After my death, my ownership interest in the companies will be overseen by a group of seven trustees who will make fiduciary decisions based solely on the best interests of the beneficiaries of the trust.

Redstone’s son, Brent Redstone, sued the family in 2006 over the running of its business interests, arguing that his sister was favoured over him and that he had been shut out of the company affairs. It was settled out of court the following year.

Redstone has been married twice, with both ending in divorce. Last September, he separated from his 44-year-old girlfriend Sydney Holland.

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