Redstone: No taking Viacom or CBS private

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NEW YORK -- In a lengthy interview for CNBC's "Closing Bell With Maria Bartiromo," Sumner Redstone said Wednesday that he has no current plans to take CBS Corp. or Viacom Inc. private. He also again signaled that daughter Shari is his likeliest successor.

"I'm going to be here for a long, long time, so I don't have to plan too intently," Redstone, who is chairman and controlling shareholder of both firms, said when asked about his succession plans. "You know, my daughter (Shari) is vice chairman of CBS and Viacom ... and she's a very viable candidate, in my opinion. On the other hand, my feeling is that ultimately, the boards of the companies should decide who succeeds me."

Asked whether his daughter would take over the controlling stakes in the two entertainment companies that he holds via National Amusements, Redstone said: "I can't say because that's determined by my will. So, I can't really tell you the inside of my will. But Shari already owns 20% of National, she is president of National, she's vice chairman of both companies. She is a credible candidate."

Asked whether he would consider taking Viacom or CBS private, Redstone said that this "has been suggested to me and to (Viacom CEO) Philippe (Dauman) and to (CBS Corp. CEO) Les (Moonves)." However, he added: "At the present time, we really like the companies the way they are. ... They're doing very well. ... Would we someday consider other alternatives? Yes, but certainly not on the immediate horizon."

Asked about recent rumors that he could restructure Moonves' contract, the CBS chairman shrugged off such suggestions. "I don't examine Les' contract," he told Bartiromo. "Les has a good contract, he's there for a long time, and he's told me that he will never leave as long as I'm alive, which is another reason I have to live forever. ... I think he earns every dollar he gets."

Investors and analysts as of late have asked Moonves if any part of CBS is for sale, and he has signaled he likes the firm's asset portfolio.

Redstone signaled as much to Bartiromo on Wednesday, saying: "Outdoor is a vastly growing business, growing here and overseas. It's one of the best businesses that CBS has. ... Why should we sell it?"

Moving on to the CBS Radio unit, he said: "While not growing fast, radio gives us $1 billion a year. How do you think we pay those dividends? We pay them largely as a result of the success of radio. ... So, radio is important, too."

Redstone also dismissed recent suggestions that CBS Corp. and Viacom have started competing with one another aggressively, a notion Dauman and Moonves have negated in recent investor conference appearances.

"These companies were born to compete," Redstone told Bartiromo. "One very clear statement that was made when the companies were created was that they had the right to compete with each other, although Les has a much more modest view about the films he's going to make than Paramount does. ... However, if they want to compete, I believe competition improves the companies."
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