CBS, Viacom Agree on Management Structure for Merger

Joseph Ianniello_Bob Bakish_Split - Getty - H 2019
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An outline of the leadership for a potentially combined company has been hammered out.

Viacom and CBS Corp. have reached an agreement on the management structure in the case of a widely expected merger. A source confirms to The Hollywood Reporter that Viacom chief Bob Bakish will be named CEO, CBS chief Joe Ianniello will take a top role overseeing the CBS brands and Christina Spade will be named CFO if a deal is reached. 

THR previously reported that a deal was all but certain and could be unveiled around Aug. 8, when the companies report their earnings, or by the end of the month. CBS and Viacom must still strike a final deal and get approvals for that from their boards. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported on Friday that a management structure agreement had been reached. 

Wade Davis is currently in the role of COO at Viacom, under Bakish. The management structure planned for a potentially merged company does not include a no. 2 executive, so it's understood from a source close to the negotiations that Davis will leave the company through any transition.

National Amusements, led by the companies' vice chair Shari Redstone, is the controlling shareholder of both firms, which recently launched new deal talks after twice before exploring a recombination without reaching an agreement. National Amusements is privately owned by the Redstone family.

Consolidation to gain more scale amid competition from streaming video and technology giants has been a key focus for the entertainment sector in recent years. The CBS-Viacom deal agreement comes after Walt Disney's $71.3 billion acquisition of large parts of 21st Century Fox and AT&T's $85 billion takeover of Time Warner. CBS is also understood to have offered Lionsgate $5 billion to buy its premium TV unit Starz.

The two entertainment companies have operated as separate companies since their split in 2006. But Shari Redstone has touted the benefits of scale, and is understood to have told those at a recent event that if CBS and Viacom combine, the merged firm could look for further deals down the line.

National Amusements has in the past said that a combination "might offer substantial synergies that would allow the combined company to respond even more aggressively and effectively to the challenges of the changing entertainment and media landscape." But in a settlement with CBS last year, it agreed not to push for a Viacom-CBS deal for a couple of years, leaving any such initiative to the companies themselves.