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Redstone Confirms Plan to Put Assets in Trust

In the face of continuing questions about the future of Viacom, founder and chairman Sumner Redstone released a statement about what will happen to his media holding after he dies.

Redstone, 92, controls both Viacom and CBS and there has been speculation about who will control and run those companies, most recently in stories that ran in Wednesday’s editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

“As I have said clearly in the past, the transfer of what I created -- my controlling interest in Viacom and CBS -- to an independent trust that I set up decades ago will ensure that the assets will be professionally managed for the benefit of all shareholders. Recent speculation about personal agendas has only confirmed for me the wisdom of my decision,” Redstone said in a statement.

Much of the speculation involved whether Redstone’s daughter Sheri or Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman—who are both trustees—would be in control.

The stories said that because of several mini-strokes, Redstone’s lower jaw has restricted movement which makes it hard to talk. He can speak a few sentences, then pauses to swallow, in order to be understood, the stories said.

The Wall Street Journal story also said that an independent physician certified that Redstone has the capacity to make estate planning decisions and that some changes were made because his relationship with a 44-year-old girlfriend ended.

Viacom has been under pressure lately, with its stock down significantly. Ratings at its cable networks are lower and ad revenues are declining. The company has shed several top executives and restructured.

But Redstone's statement provided a vote of confidence for Dauman.

“Philippe is my long-time friend and partner. He continues to have my unequivocal support and trust, which he has earned over our many years together. He is out in front navigating an unprecedented level of change in the industry and he has articulated for me, for the Viacom board and for his management team, a smart, innovative and sustainable path to success. We are both long-term thinkers and I am more confident than ever that he is on the right track,” the statement said.

Dauman recently laid out his global strategy for Viacom, which is based on content, scale and technology.