Viacom’s Redstone opposes selling minority stake in Paramount: WSJ

(Reuters) — Ailing Viacom Inc (VIAB.O) controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone opposes Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman’s plan to sell a minority stake sale in Viacom’s Paramount Pictures movie studio, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The report added to turmoil over the future of Viacom, the conglomerate that owns MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and other TV channels, as Dauman faces pressure to boost the company’s stock price.

Dauman announced in February that the company would seek a buyer for a minority stake in the studio, a prize asset.

Dauman visited the home of 92-year-old Redstone in February to seek his support for the plan, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Even though Redstone has trouble speaking, Dauman thought he heard “yes,” the newspaper said, quoting unidentified sources.

He later recounted his visit to Viacom’s board of directors, telling them that a nurse had seen Redstone agree to the plan, which could help pacify Viacom investors who want major strategic changes.

After the sale plan was announced, Redstone summoned Paramount chief Brad Grey and expressed displeasure about the potential sale, the newspaper reported.

Redstone later said the same thing to other people, including Dauman. “I don’t want to sell Paramount,” Redstone said repeatedly, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

It said Redstone did not raise any opposition at a February board meeting of Viacom. The company could not be immediately reached for comment on Monday.

Hollywood media reports said a deal for a minority stake in Paramount is expected by the end of June and that company insiders have said more than three dozen parties are interested in bidding on a piece of the film studio.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted a Viacom spokesman as saying after the Journal report that the sale process was continuing.

Redstone has faced a lawsuit by his ex-girlfriend that challenged his mental competency. Lawyers acting for Redstone reached preliminary settlement over the lawsuit.