Sumner Redstone to Miss Viacom Shareholder Meeting

The 91-year-old executive chairman and controlling shareholder of the company and CBS Corp. has in recent years scaled back his public appearances and recently missed two earnings calls.

Viacom executive chairman and controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone will not attend the entertainment company's annual shareholder meeting in Miami on Monday.

A spokesman said the 91-year-old Redstone, who lives in L.A., has decided not to attend.

The meeting is expected to draw few shareholders as it is held in Miami where Viacom has the headquarters of its Latin American operation. It will focus on the re-election of the company's 12 board candidates and other routine matters, such as the approval of the management incentive plan and the company's auditor, and has no shareholder proposals to discuss. Typically, Viacom's meetings have been held in New York or L.A. This year's location would mean a cross-country trip for Redstone.

The company founder, who has over the past few years scaled back his public appearances amid mobility issues, has attended and at least opened Viacom's shareholder meetings as long as observers can remember. Observers and the spokesman said they couldn't recall when Redstone ever missed an annual meeting. Redstone, who turns 92 on May 27, drew some attention in recent weeks for missing Viacom's and CBS' latest earnings conference calls, leading to some debate about his health.

"Sumner is doing well," the spokesman said Thursday when asked about his health. He didn't comment further.

Redstone controls Viacom and CBS via National Amusements, of which he controls 80 percent, with daughter Shari Redstone holding the other 20 percent. His controlling stakes in Viacom and CBS amount to nearly 80 percent.

Last year, Redstone attended the Viacom annual meeting on the Paramount studio lot in L.A. Redstone kicked off the meeting with brief remarks, thanking investors for their continued support. The meeting ended after less than 30 minutes with only a couple of shareholder questions.

His remarks on earnings calls last year have been shorter, and he sounded frail on the most recent calls during which he spoke. Sources have said Redstone's mind has remained sharp, but that he was dealing with mobility issues in line with his age.

Wall Street observers have mostly not discussed Redstone's health and presence. But Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan mentioned in a note after Viacom's most recent earnings report that there could be, "warranted or unwarranted, more concerns about chairman Sumner Redstone's health given his unusual absence from the conference call,"

In 2012, news that Redstone was planning on missing Viacom's shareholder meeting that year caused a backlash, leading Redstone to reverse course. The original plan that year was for him to address shareholders via video. There are no plans for any recorded presentation from Redstone at Monday's meeting, THR understands.

In 2012, Redstone said at the meeting: "To paraphrase my very good friend Mark Twain [who, he quipped, couldn't be there] the reports of my absence from this meeting have been greatly exaggerated." That year, a curtain opened at the start of the meeting to reveal Redstone sitting at a desk on a stage flanked by president and CEO Philippe Dauman and general counsel Michael Fricklas. Redstone also wasn't available for questions after the meeting as the curtain closed right after the meeting finished.

Redstone also is executive chairman and controlling shareholder of CBS Corp.

Some on Wall Street have suggested that Viacom and CBS should reunite after their split at the start of 2006, with some arguing that without Redstone, such a deal could make even more sense. But the CEOs of both companies have shrugged off such suggestions.

"We have no intention of buying CBS or buying any big company," Dauman said earlier this week at an investor conference. A week earlier, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves was also fairly dismissive of the notion that CBS might be acquired anytime soon.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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