Report: CBS-Viacom Deal Hinges on Moonves’s No. 2

CBS chief Les Moonves

CBS chief Les Moonves

Merger talks between CBS and Viacom could hinge on who gets selected to take the No. 2 spot at the company behind expected head honcho Les Moonves, according to a CNBC report.

CNBC’s David Faber said that Moonves’ choice for the No. 2 executive slot – current CBS chief operating officer Joseph Ianniello – differs from the pick of top shareholder and vice chair Shari Redstone. According to Faber, Redstone wants current Viacom CEO Bob Bakish to take the No. 2 spot.

Ianniello has been a long-time favorite of CBS chair and CEO Moonves – he was chief financial officer for four years (2009-2013) before being named COO in 2013, and he has a stellar reputation as a deal maker and savvy business executive, having first joined CBS as a VP in 2000 from accounting firm KPMG. Ianniello has long been considered to be Moonves’ replacement when he eventually retires, and the COO has a clause in his employment deal that would pay him $70 million if he is no longer Moonves’ top lieutenant. Bakish apparently has a similar clause in his employment deal but the amount was not immediately known.

Earlier reports have said that CBS is planning a low-ball offer for a Viacom deal, proposing an all-stock offer that would value Viacom below its current market price. Faber said in his report earlier today that there is still a possibility CBS could offer an at or above market price for Viacom.

Investors, at least for the moment, appear to be favoring CBS’ stance, driving the stock up 2% ($1.11 each) to $51.82 per share in early trading. Viacom shares were down 3.4% ($1.04 each) to $29.51 per share in early trading.