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New twist in battle to control Viacom

Do Not UseDo Not Use 24/05/2016
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The battle for control of Viacom, owner of the Paramount film studio and networks including MTV, has taken a new twist when two new trustees were appointed by the 92-year-old chairman, Sumner Redstone.

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Tad Jankowski and Jill Krutick were appointed to the trust that controls 80% of Viacom's voting shares.

The move is part of an acrimonious fight for control of the media empire.

Mr Redstone's health and the influence of his daughter have been questioned.

Last week, Viacom chief executive Philippe Dauman and board member George Abrams were removed from their roles on the trust and as directors of National Amusements, Mr Redstone's cinema chain.

On Monday, Mr Dauman filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr Abrams and himself against Mr Redstone's daughter Shari Redstone. They claimed she manipulated her father to gain more control of the board.

Mr Redstone said on Tuesday: "This is my trust and my decision. I have picked those who are loyal to me and removed those who are not."

The trust takes over the voting control for Viacom and sister company CBS, the television operator, if Mr Redstone died or was incapacitated.

Shari Redstone said it was "absurd" to say she controlled her father. "Sumner makes his own decisions ... and has his own team of independent advisers to counsel him."

Future control

The changes do appear to give Ms Redstone presumptive control of the $40bn (£27.3bn) media empire. She is already a member of the trust, the president and a board member of National Amusements, and the vice-chair of CBS and Viacom.

On Tuesday, Ms Krutick and Mr Redstone's oldest granddaughter, Kimberlee Ostheimer, were also appointed to the board of National Amusements.

In April, his daughter won a court battle against Mr Redstone's former girlfriend that gave her control of her father's health care. That case also alleged that Mr Redstone mental capacity.

In February, Mr Redstone stepped down as the head of CBS.

Viacom's management, and Mr Dauman in particular, have been under pressure to improve Viacom's performance. Its shares have fallen by a third over the past 12 months.

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