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Paramount sale ‘progressing’ despite Redstone row

Viacom chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman has said his plan to sell a minority stake in film arm Paramount Pictures remains on track, despite the recent boardroom battles.

Philippe DaumanDauman’s future has looked increasingly unclear as the Redstone camp, which controls Viacom through National Amusements, has attempted to dampen his power through a series of legal moves, which have been returned in kind.

A key bone of contention for Viacom owner Sumner Redstone and his daughter, Shari Redstone, has been the sale of a stake in Paramount (though Dauman and the Viacom board claim the elder Redstone, 93, is unable to control his own affairs and is being manipulated).

“It is strategically important to look at what will enhance and accelerate the growth of Paramount into the future,” said Dauman at an investor conference in New York.

He said the sale process had begun with “40 players” expressing interest. “We are now at a stage where we have had more limited discussions with a more limited group who would be strategic partners.

“Naturally, recent events have slowed down the process, but we are continuing to explore the potential of unlocking value with select partners.”

A deal would hand the unnamed partner 49% of the Paramount business for an undisclosed amount. Dauman said this would unlock around US$10 a share, which could be used to pay off debts.

The Viacom chief has been criticised for taking home huge cheques while the business has since its share price plummet following poor performance at Paramount, and ratings dips at cable channels such as MTV.

However, Dauman pointed to recent ratings increases at VH1 and Nickelodeon and other deals as examples he was turning the company around.

Directly addressing the battle for the future of Viacom, Dauman said: “I’ve been involved in the company for 30 years, and this is certainly unique. It’s a lot more fun creating the content than being the content.”