Photograph by Frederick M. Brown — Getty Images

As the Redstones fight with Viacom chair Philippe Dauman for control

By Ian Mount
June 15, 2016
June 15, 2016

Shari Redstone, the daughter of embattled media mogul Sumner Redstone, has reportedly spoken with Alibaba founder Jack Ma about a possible sale of Paramount Pictures.

The two spoke last week, the New York Post reports, citing unnamed sources. A spokesperson for Shari Redstone declined to comment on the reported meeting.

The discussions come as Sumner Redstone is fighting a court battle for the control of Viacom with his onetime heir apparent, company chairman Philippe Dauman. While Redstone has being trying to thwart Dauman’s sale of a stake in the 104-year-old movie studio, Dauman last week said he was still moving forward with plans to sell a large piece of it.

At a brokerage conference, Dauman said that Viacom viab was having “detailed discussions” with several potential buyers about selling a stake of some 49% in Paramount.

The fight between Dauman and Redstone is part of a dramatic power struggle over Sumner Redstone’s mental competence. The 93-year-old mogul is the lead shareholder in National Amusements, the holding company that controls about 80% of the voting shares in both Viacom and CBS cbs .

Dauman is trying to thwart a move by Redstone to remove him and fellow Viacom board member George Abrams from the trust that would control Viacom and CBS after Redstone dies. Dauman filed a legal challenge to that maneuver, arguing that Redstone was being manipulated by his daughter, Shari.

National Amusements also recently changed Viacom bylaws so that any deal that involved Paramount would require the unanimous approval of the company’s board. It cited the need to protect “long-term interests of shareholders.”

 

In other news in the Viacom drama, the company’s lead independent director on Tuesday pleaded for a meeting with Sumner Redstone and warned of further court battles if the media mogul remained inaccessible to the board.

“Sumner, they tell us they won’t make you available for fear that such a meeting would become the source of more litigation,” Viacom director Fred Salerno wrote, according to Reuters. “In reality, putting up a wall around you ensures more litigation—and that is not what we want.”

In the letter, Salerno said new lawyers for Redstone staged a drive with the billionaire and Shari to the Paramount studio last week “for a brief visit in which you didn’t get out of your car.” (A representative of Sumner Redstone confirmed that he did visit the studio.)

Salerno also recounted a meeting in February in which Dauman told Redstone about new opportunities for Paramount.

“He reported that you didn’t react, other than to nod when he asked you if you heard him and understood what he said to you,” Salerno wrote.

At a subsequent board meeting, Redstone did not speak up when the board discussed Paramount, Salerno said.

“We are quite concerned that your voice—and views—are not being heard,” Salerno wrote. “When your phone is dialed into our board calls from your home, no one says a word. When we ask for your vote, all we hear is silence.”

According to the Post, the Redstones have reached out to DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg to determine if he is interested in running Viacom.

Reuters contributed to this report.

This story has been updated with responses from the representatives of Shari and Sumner Redstone.

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