Rest easy, Sumner Redstone, Philippe Dauman and Thomas Dooley: You won’t have to give up millions of your bucks after all. Eleven months after a Viacom shareholder sued the company to get back $36.6M he believed was overpaid in bonuses to the media behemoth’s three top execs, a federal judge in Delaware has dismissed the suit. Robert Freedman’s complaint (read it here) sought reparation for compensation to Chairman Redstone, CEO Dauman and COO Dooley, plus legal fees, and to quash future incentive payouts. U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson filled 26 pages with opinion as to why she sent Freedman home empty-handed, saying he failed to prove his claim that the trio were incorrectly awarded millions by the Viacom board’s compensation committee between 2008 and 2011 in violation of the company’s 2007 executive pay plan. The judge agreed with Viacom’s October request to have the suit tossed.
The Viacom and CBS Corp executive chairman made the donation via his Sumner M. Redstone Charitable Foundation as the museum celebrates its 25th anniversary. The Museum of the Moving Image in New York will rename its main theater the Sumner M. Redstone Theater beginning in May 2013. Redstone has been busy on the charity front this year, giving $10M to USC in January and last month the university christened a building in its Cinematic Arts complex the Sumner M. Redstone Production Building.
The USC School Of Cinematic Arts keeps making a big push to gain more support among current Hollywood moguls and filmmakers who aren’t has-beens. Smart business: the names will translate into more money and clout for the school and its BA, MA, MFA and PhD programs. USC has to compete just even locally with American Film Institute’s AFI Conservatory and UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television not to mention other rival schools nationally like New York University Tisch School of the Arts and internationally like Beijing Film Academy. So no surprise that Twentieth Century Fox Film Chairman Jim Gianopulos this week joined the USC film school’s Board Of Councilors. Last week, Bryan Singer donated $5 million and became the first alumnus to have one of the film school’s 6 programs of study named in his honor. Also last week, Paramount’s Brad Grey and CBS Inc’s Les Moonves joined George Lucas (alumnus) and Steven Spielberg (who applied twice and was turned down each time) at the gala reception opening of the Sumner M. Redstone Production Building for the school.
Gianopulos also joins Lucas and Spielberg – who’ve each donated buildings – on the USC film school board which takes a leadership roll in the school’s overall planning and development as well as supports its fundraising efforts. Board of Councilors Chair Frank Price, who used to preside over Universal Pictures and Columbia Pictures (twice), said in a statement: “Throughout his career Jim has always been dedicated to finding and supporting the next visionary filmmaker or technology and that fits right in with our goal as a Board. By working in support of the students at SCA we are ensuring that our industry has a bright future.” Gianopulos for his part explained: “I have long admired the commitment to being at the forefront of the cinematic arts that [Dean] Elizabeth Daley and USC have exemplified over the years.”
Related: Bryan Singer Donates $5M To USC Film School; Sumner Redstone Facility Christened
USC was funded in collaboration with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1929 and offers comprehensive programs in directing, producing, writing, critical studies, animation and digital arts, production, and interactive media. On Tuesday night, Hollywood bigwigs turned out for the Redstone building dedication which follows the Viacom Chairman’s donation of $10 million to the USC School Of Cinematic Arts kast January. The state-of-the-art production facility houses two soundstages, dubbed Redstone 1 and Redstone 2. Part of SCA’s new Cinematic Arts Complex, it features 2,600 square feet of production space for use by the about 1,000 students from the school’s various divisions who are studying production skills such as staging, lighting, directing, producing and forming/leading a crew. The building also is equipped with industry standard Strand dimming systems and Mole-Richardson lighting; floor lights, grip and electrical hardware; a Production Equipment Center; wooden stage floors; and soundproofing and soundproof utility doors, among many others features. “I’ve always said that content is king. It’s the lord of the realm. It’s the highest value in this industry,” Redstone told the crowd. “I’m hoping that adding my name to the Redstone building will further the art of storytelling and that, within its walls, the Spielbergs and Lucases of tomorrow will continue to make magic.” Read More »
While deep-pocketed folks like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas get buildings named after them for big donations, director Bryan Singer has made history by becoming the first alumnus of USC‘s School Of Cinematic Arts to have one of the school’s six programs of study named in his honor. USC’s Dean Elizabeth M. Daley said today that SCA’s Division of Critical Studies has now been named the Bryan Singer Division of Critical Studies in honor of the filmmaker’s $5 million gift. The X-Men and Superman Returns director, who is prepping Fox’s X-Men: Days Of Future Past for a summer 2014 debut, graduated from the Critical Studies division in 1989; his Jack The Giant Slayer for Warner Bros opens March 1. “In a way, I began my career in the Division of Critical Studies at USC”, he said. “Watching great films and learning how to think about film from the faculty transformed me as an artist and as a person. I am honored to give back to the division and the school, which gave me so much.” Read More »
It had long been thought that after a falling out with his daughter years ago that Viacom and CBS Corp chairman Sumner Redstone would hand over the keys to his empire to Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. But the 89-year-old Redstone told the Wall Street Journal that he’s still deciding on who will replace him to oversee his controlling interest in both companies, and that “my family will ultimately inherit the business”. “It hasn’t been decided yet who will be my successor. And Philippe knows it”, the mogul told the WSJ in an interview published today. “He knows that Shari might be my successor and it’s not a competitive race between them. We have to see what happens.” Shari Redstone, 58, controls 20% of National Amusements, the holding company that controls Viacom and CBS Corp, with her father holding the rest of the stake. Combined, their holdings in Viacom and CBS are worth about $3.5 billion, the paper says. “Philippe understands that my family is important and it could be Shari. I don’t say it will be. It could be either one or both,” Redstone said, adding later that it is likely Dauman would inherit his chairman role at Viacom and that CBS CEO Les Moonves would become chairman of CBS (though after the WSJ interview, Redstone emailed the paper to say that the boards of the companies will “ultimately decide who becomes chairman of each company”). Read More »
The company has pushed back on a lawsuit that claimsViacom chairman Sumner Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman, COO Thomas Dooley and other board members were overpaid by $36.6 million. “Defendants respectfully request that the Court dismiss the Complaint with prejudice,” said Viacom’s lawyers in a memorandum (read it here) accompanying the motion filed yesterday in Delaware. “Viacom and the Director Defendants (together, the “Defendants”) bring this motion …on the grounds that no demand was made on the Board to bring suit and the Complaint does not adequately allege demand on the Board would be futile and hence excused.” The company also says that shareholder Robert Freedman has not shown in his suit that the board isn’t independent and didn’t make the payout based on evaluated performance of the compensated executives. Freedman filed his initial complaint August 17. He wants the executives to repay the $36,645.750 they received plus his legal fees.
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Robert Freedman claims that Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Thomas Dooley were overpaid $36.6 million and the shareholder is taking the trio to court to get the money back. In a 17-page complaint (read it here) filed on August 17, Freedman says that between 2008 and 2011 the three were incorrectly awarded millions by Viacom’s board’s compensation committee in direct violation of the company’s own 2007 executive pay plan. Calling the payments “unjust enrichment” and based on “subjective measure,” the Viacom shareholder wants the court to compel Redstone, Dauman and Dooley, as well as the several compensation committee members named as defendants, to repay the $36,645.750 plus his legal fees. Not that big payouts are anything new for the three at Viacom. In 2011, Dauman received $43.1 million from the company in salary, stock and other compensation. That was down from the $84.5 million he made in 2010 but that’s in part because of the big resigning bonus Dauman got when he renegotiated his contract that year. COO Dooley made $34.1 million in 2011 and Redstone took home $21 million as executive chairman. In the action, filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Freedman also wants the court to force Viacom to not pay such “excessive compensation” again and to let Class B shareholders to vote on the 2012 executive pay plan approved at Viacom’s annual meeting on March 8, … Read More »
Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor.
At the risk of sounding ghoulish, here’s the first thing many people will want to know: The 88-year-old owner of Viacom and CBS seemed relatively alert and steady in his appearance today to celebrate his becoming the 2,467th person to have a star on the walk. Sumner Redstone‘s health is an ongoing concern in business circles, and he raised new questions this month when he said that he wouldn’t show at Viacom’s shareholders’ meeting. (He changed his mind but used a curtain to prevent attendees from seeing him enter or leave the stage.) Today, though, all appeared well in front of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as Redstone talked about his journey to becoming a billionaire mogul. It was “torturous, long, hard and sometimes difficult, but it was always exciting and always rewarding,” he said. His most devoted acolyte, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman (pictured at right with his boss), said that “Sumner, the King of content, is an elemental force of nature” as well as ”brilliant and brash.” The ceremony attracted several media business dignitaries including CBS chief Les Moonves and his wife, TV anchor Julie Chen; Paramount Pictures CEO Brad Grey; Barbara Davis, the widow of one-time 20th Century Fox owner Marvin Davis; and producers Brian Grazer, Arnold Kopelson, and Robert Evans.
I don’t know whether Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone’s appearance at this morning’s 45-minute annual meeting will do enough to end the speculation that the 88-year-old majority shareholder is becoming frail. Although he showed up — something he briefly said last week that he couldn’t do, due to a scheduling conflict — attendees couldn’t see him walk to or from the dais. When the meeting began the company pulled back a curtain to show Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman, and General Counsel Michael Fricklas seated at a table. The curtain closed on Redstone when the event ended. He appeared moderately engaged throughout the session, after reading from a prepared statement. Paraphrasing “my very good friend Mark Twain, who couldn’t be here today,” he said, “my absence from this meeting has been greatly exaggerated.”
Dauman then led the session. He said that Paramount yesterday greenlighted a 3D movie with singer Katy Perry, to be called Part Of Me, that will be released this summer. He also acknowledged that plans are in the works for another Mission: Impossible sequel. Dauman said that cable channel Nick Jr will introduce a “Nick Mom” evening programming block beginning this fall. And he says that he’s enthusiastic about the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series launching on Nickelodeon later this year — to be followed by a Paramount film due out by the end of 2013. Dauman added that the company plans a global consumer products initiative for the franchise. “It’ll be a big hit,” he says. Read More »
UPDATE, 2:30 PM: The Viacom chairman wasn’t as busy as he thought following the wave of speculation that his earlier decision to skip the shareholder gathering indicated that he was ill — or just indifferent to other investors: “Mr. Redstone very much wanted to attend the Viacom annual meeting,” company spokesman Carl Folta says. “He was able to change his commitment and will participate in person at the meeting.”
PREVIOUS, 1:46 PM: “Sumner owns a majority of the outstanding shares and has never pretended to be anything other than a benevolent dictator” corporate governance expert Robert A.G. Monks says regarding Redstone’s decision to skip Viacom’s annual shareholder meeting in New York on Thursday. The chairman will deliver a video address, but won’t attend due to an unspecified but “unavoidable conflict,” the company says. That fueled some speculation that Redstone, 88, may be sick. “People have been on the watch for a while; it’s not a good sign,” says one veteran Viacom observer. There’s no health problem, the company told Bloomberg: Redstone attended the Oscar awards ceremony and plans to show up later this month when he’ll be presented with a star on Hollywood’s Walk Of Fame. But that makes Redstone’s decision to skip the annual meeting — an event he called, on a date he presumably set — all the more perplexing to governance experts. Read More »
Time Warner’s Jeff Bewkes and Viacom’s Sumner Redstone are among the honchos under attack by Anonymous — a group of so-called Internet “hacktivists” – The New York Times reports. Bewkes apparently has already been hit with threatening phone calls and emails after the group disclosed his home addresses and phone numbers on the Web. Anonymous also revealed contact info for people at NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Disney. While it didn’t spread Redstone’s contact info, the group did circulate other material about his family. The attack is part of Anonymous’ “Operation Hiroshima,” a newly launched campaign to protest the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s Protect IP Act — similar bills that would empower the federal government to block overseas Web sites that traffic in pirated content. Hollywood says they’re needed to stop rampant theft of movies and TV shows, among other things. But Internet and tech companies say the bills could end up being used to quash free speech or attack legitimate Web sites. “You take our speech. You take our Internet. You take our Bill of Rights. You take our Constitution. We fight back,” Anonymous said in a video that announced Operation Hiroshima.
Theaters Demand Longer Wait For ‘Tower Heist’ Premium VOD Test
Add Sumner Redstone’s exhibitor company National Amusements to the list of chains who won’t show Universal’s upcoming caper comedy Tower Heist. The 950-screen circuit said today that it won’t screen the Ben Stiller-Eddie Murphy movie if the the studio moves ahead with plans to test a shortened video-on-demand window that will make it available three weeks after it premieres in theaters for $59.99. The film opens November 4. Cinemark has been the lone major chain to say it won’t screen the film if the VOD test — set for two markets, Atlanta and Portland, Ore. — goes forward, arguing that any shortening of release windows will impact its business. Earlier this week, regional chains Regency Theatres, Galaxy Theatres and Emagine Theatres also said they wouldn’t play the film. The other national chains, AMC and Regal, and industry group NATO have not weighed in, and Universal has been declining comment so far.
CBS Corp and Viacom vice chairman and National Amusements president Shari Redstone has co-founded Advancit Capital, an early-stage investment firm that has been involved in early funding for app maker Nettle. AllThingsD reports that the company, co-founded with Jason Ostheimer, is focusing on media, entertainment and technology companies. Redstone, the daughter of CBS Corp and Viacom chief Sumner Redstone, recently ran Midway Games before her father sold his stock in the game-maker. She is thought to be the eventual successor to the throne at Viacom and CBS Corp.
Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone stunned the entertainment industry in 2006 when he fired CEO Tom Freston. One of the chief reasons for the move was that Freston hadn’t moved decisively enough to buy MySpace, enabling Rupert Murdoch to pick up what was then the most popular social networking site for $580 million. Redstone seemed to think that contributed to the 20% drop in Viacom’s stock price in 2006 up to the date of Freston’s ouster. The CEO’s successor, Philippe Dauman, would “never, ever let another competitor beat us to the trophy,” Redstone told analysts. Redstone told interviewer Charlie Rose that losing MySpace had been “humiliating,” adding, “MySpace was sitting there for the taking for $500 million.”
But who’s laughing now? MySpace has collapsed into a distant also-ran behind Facebook and Twitter. And Murdoch took a bath on MySpace this week. He wanted $100 million for it but sold 95% of his interest to ad company Specific Media for a mere $35 million. Just imagine what would have happened to Viacom’s stock if Redstone’s passion for chasing fads led him to outbid Murdoch. It’s hard to believe that the owner of MTV would have seen what Murdoch didn’t — that social network fans were being turned off by MySpace’s tawdry commercialism as it established itself as a music and entertainment portal. That provided the opening for Facebook and Twitter to position themselves as safer alternatives for people who simply want to connect with friends.
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UPDATE, 3:07 PM: CBS Corp chief Les Moonves is such a relentless salesman you can’t resist being suspicious when he makes seemingly over-the-top financial forecasts the way he did today. But the results in CBS’ latest earnings report are too impressive, and his predictions are too specific, to ignore. Moonves says he expects “solid double-digit increases” in CBS’ ad sales in the coming upfront market. That’s one of the most bullish forecasts we’ve heard so far from a network executive. If the NFL season falls apart due to the team owners’ lockout, then “we expect to get a greater piece of the (advertising) pie.” Talking up CBS’ programming, Moonves says that Hawaii Five-0 is destined to become “a billion dollar franchise for us” following an initial syndication deal that prices the show at $5 million an episode. Moonves also is a fan of Netflix and other companies that want to offer TV programs online: Moonves says a deal that would enable Netflix to stream CBS shows in Latin America and Canada “might happen very quickly.” He’s also talking to Amazon, and expects to hear from Blockbuster as its new owner Dish Network considers using the home video chain to launch an online subscription service. Revenue from the Netflix deal that Moonves cut in February will appear on CBS’ books beginning in the second quarter.
In other matters, Moonves says that “there are a lot of moving pieces” with the Warner Bros-produced sitcom Two And A Half Men now that Charlie Sheen is gone, and he doesn’t know whether it will return. The CEO also says that he “has no great intent to sell” CBS’ outdoor advertising business.
The bullish predictions, the strong 1Q results, a decision to double CBS’ dividend to 10 cents a share, and the company’s plan to keep buying back its stock had a predictable result: The price of CBS’ shares rose 4.4% in after-hours trading.
PREVIOUS, 1:40 PM: CBS Corporation just provided yet more evidence that the advertising market is regaining its strength. The broadcast company’s 1Q earnings smashed through analysts’ expectations. Read More »
So I was told this today by an insider about that recent Sumner Redstone-Tom Cruise rapprochement meal at the very public Polo Lounge: “Jews like to break bread before Passover! If the economics are right, Paramount is interested in working with its old friend.” But here’s the breaking news: I’ve been forewarned about a big Paramount-Tom Cruise announcement soon. (Redstone’s Viacom owns the movie studio.) Will wonders never cease? Sure, when the price is right.