McKinsey Vets Viacom/CBS Employee Ranks

The opportunities offered by the impending division of Viacom into two entities have both sides of the company excited, for different reasons.

MTV Networks folks, heading into the side considered the youngster with the most growth potential, love being acknowledged as the star pupils. Execs on the slow-growing side, notably CBS, see themselves as underdogs and are itching to prove skeptics wrong.

But there’s one player that could spoil the fun: McKinsey & Co. The powerhouse management consultant has been tapped for a top-to-bottom review of Viacom, examining how the two parts should run after their early-2006 separation.

Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone recently promised investors he would “eliminate unnecessary costs and create two nimble, streamlined organizations.” What he didn’t say was who’d be advising him. McKinsey-ites have been scurrying around Viacom’s operations, interviewing senior managers about their units.

“With McKinsey, they’re all about one thing: Cut, cut, cut,” says one ex-Viacom executive familiar with the review, who has worked with McKinsey in the past.

That’s inducing a little anxiety in the ranks. “It’s nerve-wracking,” says another Viacom executive. “You feel like you’re interviewing to keep your own job.”

An MTV Networks executive, however, called the review “just par for the course, given the dramatic change in the works for both sides.

“We’d be irresponsible to not do it,” he continued. “What is the right makeup or corporate structure for two smaller companies?”

The answer in part, apparently, is: Ask an outsider.