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CBS, Viacom reach deal to reunite Sumner Redstone's media empire

Reuters logo Reuters 8/13/2019 By Kenneth Li

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CBS Corp and Viacom Inc have reached a deal to reunite media mogul Sumner Redstone's U.S. entertainment empire after 13 years apart.

The new company will be named ViacomCBS Inc despite the fact that CBS shareholders will own 61% and Viacom shareholders will own 39%.

Viacom shareholders will receive 0.59625 CBS shares for each share they own, representing a slight premium to Viacom's closing price on Monday.

The merger creates a company with roughly $30-billion market value, which is still small compared to rivals including Netflix Inc , at $136 billion, ABC network owner Walt Disney Co , at about $245 billion, and NBC owner Comcast Corp at $193 billion.

It will combine the CBS television network, CBS News, Showtime cable networks with MTV Networks, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and the Paramount movie studios. Together, they will own more than 140,000 TV episodes and more than 3,600 film titles. Annually, it is estimated to generate about $28 billion in revenue.

The two companies are controlled by National Amusements Inc, the holding company owned by billionaire Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari.

"My father once said ‘content is king,’ and never has that been more true than today," Shari Redstone said in a prepared statement.

a man sitting in front of a computer: FILE PHOTO: A trader works below the CBS Corporation logo on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York

FILE PHOTO: A trader works below the CBS Corporation logo on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York
© Reuters/Lucas Jackson

The deal represents a victory for Shari Redstone, president of National Amusement, after three attempts since 2016. Previous merger talks had failed because of clashes between executives over divvying up top jobs and the companies' relative valuation.

The recombination comes amid an increasingly competitive media landscape dominated by Disney and Netflix, prompting Redstone to pursue a merger.

Viacom Chief Executive Bob Bakish will be the President and CEO of the combined company. Joe Ianniello, interim CEO of CBS, will be named Chairman and CEO of CBS, which will exclude the Showtime cable network and book publisher Simon & Schuster.

The companies said they expected about $500 million in annual synergies, or cost savings.

The new board of directors will consist of 13 members. Six will come from independent members from CBS, four independent members from Viacom, Bakish, and two National Amusements members. Shari Redstone will be appointed the chairman.

Shares of Viacom rose 2% to $29.11 and shares of CBS rose 1.8% to $48.91 after the merger was announced.

(Additional reporting by Helen Coster in New York and Supantha Mukherjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Nick Zieminski)

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