CEO Daily: Friday, February 5

February 5, 2016, 11:55 AM UTC

We’ve written a lot in CEO Daily about shareholder activists. But what happens when the activist is a member of the founder’s family? That’s the position Viacom now finds itself in, having chosen CEO Philippe Dauman as its new chairman, over the objections of Shari Redstone, who owns 20% of the company’s stock. Redstone issued a statement yesterday pledging “to continue to advocate for what she believes to be in the best interests of Viacom shareholders” – which means this battle is far from over, and will continue to be a cloud over the company.


It’s a shame 92-year-old Sumner Redstone didn’t settle the succession issue while he still had the faculties to do so. But like so many others, Redstone thought he was going to reign forever, and couldn’t seem to contemplate his own replacement. Shari Redstone insists that a family trust agreement, never made public, gives her the right to succeed her father as non-executive chair of both CBS and Viacom. But the elder Redstone, who has fought openly with his daughter over the years, has publicly stated succession would be determined by the two companies’ boards. Shari Redstone agreed to Les Moonves becoming chair of CBS, but is demanding ABP – anyone but Philippe – at Viacom.


All this is playing out in the midst of a legal battle over the elder Redstone’s mental competence, with his ousted former girlfriend Manuela Herzer claiming in court documents that he has become a “living ghost,” while Shari Redstone counters his health has “flourished” since Herzer’s ouster. Shari says she has personally visited her father for 39 days since mid-November, and “patched up” their “very public disagreements.” You can read Peter Elkind’s report on the sad saga here.


As an aside, FORTUNE ran a story in 2007 about the anti-aging elixir that Redstone thought would keep him going indefinitely. If you share his delusions, you can read it here.


More below.


Top News

Clinton, Sanders clash in debate

During the Democratic debate held in New Hampshire on Thursday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took a more angry approach to how she handled her rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. "Time and time again, by innuendo and insinuation, there is an attack that he is putting forth," Clinton said, referring to Sanders' references to her raising money from Wall Street and other interests, which she argues, aims to imply the contributions bought favorable treatment. Clinton's tougher stance comes as she trails Sanders pretty badly in New Hampshire, with little hope of catching the Vermont senator before the state's primary on Tuesday. Fortune

LinkedIn's forecast hurts shares

LinkedIn forecast current-quarter profit and revenue targets below analysts' estimates, citing weakness in the business networking service's recruitment business in markets outside North America. That business is facing pressure in the Europe, Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific regions, with CFO Steve Sordello citing "current global economic conditions." Meanwhile, expenses have surged as the social network has bought up companies, hired sales personnel, and increased its presence in China. Reuters

Obama to propose oil tax

President Barack Obama will propose a $10-a-barrel oil tax to fund an ambitious new transportation spending plan, a tax that Republicans in Congress quickly shot down. The proposal is that the new tax would be phased in over five years and would apply to both domestic and imported oil. The fee would be paid by oil companies, though White House officials acknowledged that firms would likely pass on some of the cost to consumers. A $10 increase in the cost of a barrel of oil usually translates into 25 cents a gallon. USA Today

Symantec gets $500 million investment

Private-equity firm Silver Lake has made a big investment in Symantec and is taking a board seat in a bid to boost the cybersecurity firm, whose stock has flagged despite an industry boom. Symantec plans to return $5.5 billion in capital to shareholders through the next year using the funds from Silver Lake, as well as the proceeds from the recent sale of its Veritas data-storage and recovery business. Meanwhile, Wall Street Journal reports that activist hedge fund Elliott Management Corp. has amassed a big stake in Symantec, but also supports the Silver Lake deal and other measures that were announced Thursday. Wall Street Journal (subscription required)

 ArcelorMittal looks to raise cash

The world's largest steelmaker on Friday launched plans to raise $3 billion from a share issue to reduce debt, as ArcelorMittal suffers from the Chinese industry's overcapacity which it claims has driven down world prices. ArcelorMittal's stock has tumbled 60% in the past year, and shares were down again on Friday after the company reported a 32% drop in core profit last year and warned the rest of 2016 would see a further decline. Reuters

Around the Water Cooler

 Shkreli calls lawmakers "imbeciles"

Martin Shkreli, the former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, showed up in Washington today to attend a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. With the exception of affirming the pronunciation of his name, Shkreli didn't say much – opting to invoke his Fifth Amendment and declining to answer any questions. He also generated criticism by smirking throughout the hearing. Following the hearing, he tweeted the following: "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government." Not a smart way to win over friends on Capitol Hill. Fortune

Hasbro, Mattel in merger talks

The two largest U.S.-based toy companies are reportedly in talks to potentially merge in a deal that would combine Hasbro's strong "boys" portfolio of Transformers and Nerf with Mattel's "girls" dominated line that includes Barbie and American Girl. The toy makers have reportedly been in merger talks since late 2015 and have held on-and-off talks about the deal since then. Mattel is worth more today but Hasbro's shares have performed far stronger the past five years as it benefits from close licensing ties to Walt Disney by selling more toys tied to popular films including "Star Wars" and "The Avengers." Fortune

Celeb fragrance sales are falling

Elizabeth Arden said sales of celebrity fragrances dropped again in the last quarter, scents that normally post very strong sales at the initial launch time but flame out quickly. Arden didn't call out any particular line, though it only manufactures only four fragrances for celebrities: Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. This business looks to be in a long downward slide: celebrity and designer fragrances sales dropped 17% last year. Fortune

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