Redstone gave stock, job to second woman
Reports: Showtime ordered to put Rohini Singh on payrollSumnergate has spilled over to CBS Corp. after it emerged that more than one woman has been the beneficiary of Viacom and CBS chairman Sumner Redstone's largesse.
Reports in The Daily Beast and Showbiz411 identified Rohini Singh, a young woman described as a veteran of the Los Angeles party scene, as the recipient of a low-level job at CBS Corp.-owned premium cable network Showtime and 2,522 shares of Viacom Class B stock, which she sold for $77,000, thanks to Redstone.
The revelations came just days after The Hollywood Reporter disclosed that Heather Naylor, a member of girls band Electric Barbarellas, also got a stock gift from Redstone worth roughly $100,000. The band was featured in a pilot for a reality series in development at Viacom flagship MTV.
The new reports cite multiple sources describing how Singh was mysteriously given a $50,000 job at Showtime during a hiring freeze at the company, a hiring that was said to be ordered by Redstone. Singh was observed out on the town with Redstone on a number of occasions as well.
John Coffee, a securities law expert at Columbia Law School, said executives asking underlings to employ someone to whom he or she is romantically linked is not uncommon in the business world.
In Redstone's case, he sees the issue of finding a job for a friend as being of less concern than pushing the Electric Barbarellas show. If the band lacks talent, as MTV executives believe, demanding that the network pursue a show appears to be "a real waste of corporate funds," Coffee said.
Even so, the legal expert said the likely damages wouldn't rise to the level that would engage the attention of an attorney who might file a suit on behalf of shareholders. "Unless you get to $10 million or $20 million, it's not of interest to any plaintiffs' attorney," he told THR.
From a corporate governance standpoint, he said, the possibility remains that the board of directors will be embarrassed by the string of stories. "The first remedy is publicity," Coffee said.
Viacom's board had a regular meeting this week. As is common in such cases, the only public word after the meeting focused on the board having approved a regular quarterly dividend.
CBS and Viacom officials had no comment and referred requests to outside PR firm Sard Verbinnen. It has been working for Redstone and his holding company National Amusements for years and is handling the latest controversies.
It handled another delicate public relations issue for Redstone when National Amusements, under debt pressure, had to sell stock of CBS and Viacom, and restructure its debt. That issue played out in late 2008 and 2009.
Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.